Guest column: Vacation rental homes benefit South Lake Tahoe
February 3, 2017
In the recent rush to criticize vacation home rentals, the city and many of its residents are overlooking the obvious: Vacation home rentals are an essential component of the tourist economy that keeps South Lake Tahoe alive. VHRs provide housing for thousands of visitors each weekend during the winter and summer months. Money spent by these visitors brings jobs to the city. Restaurants, ski and boating equipment renters, painters and contractors, even housecleaners, all rely on tourists for their income. And all these tourists need a place to stay.
A high proportion of Tahoe visitors consists of vacations by extended families and weekend getaways by groups of friends numbering 10, 12 and even more. They want to stay together, cook meals together, watch movies together and just be together. All of this is impossible in a hotel that limits its guests to two to four per room. These people come to Tahoe specifically because they can stay in a home. Any limitation in VHRs will result in a corresponding reduction in the number of these highly lucrative visitors and the money they spend here, leading to a reduction in our economy and a loss of jobs.
VHR owners are in a highly competitive industry. We have to keep our homes in good condition from top to bottom in order to attract visitors and earn positive reviews that help bring in future guests. Just look at the inordinately high number of hardware stores in the area and ask yourself how do they all stay in business. VHR owners help to keep the city's housing stock in good condition.
Nobody I know is getting rich from owning a VHR in Tahoe. Tahoe is highly seasonal and attracts tourists only about half the year. The rest of the year our homes are mostly vacant. But although the income stops, the mortgage payments keep on going. We have to earn enough income in half a year to cover our costs for the entire year.
The great majority of us VHR owners take our responsibilities very seriously and do everything we can to remain in compliance with laws and regulations. We worked hard to earn the money to buy our home and furnish it, and we don't want to risk our investment by renting to troublemakers. Many of us work with rental agents who also impose strict rules about property maintenance and guest behavior. We are trying to be good residents and good neighbors.
VHR owners take on a big financial risk and a significant amount of effort to buy a home and manage it as a VHR. The city benefits from our investment by having additional housing capacity to grow the tourist economy and by earning additional tax revenue on our rental income. Let's celebrate the fact that South Lake Tahoe is such a desirable place to live and visit that so many people want to invest here. VHRs are a win for everyone.
Jonathan Miller is a South Lake Tahoe resident and VHR owner.
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