‘Hosted rentals’ putting Airbnb back into our neighborhoods (Opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Hosted rentals’ putting Airbnb back into our neighborhoods (Opinion)

Scott Robbins
Guest column
Scott Robbins

Two years ago, the residents of our city voted to keep vacation rental businesses out of residential neighborhoods. The push for Measure T was a long effort, run on a shoestring, and fought hard against the biggest moneyed interests in our community. It won.

Now the city is working to undo the will of the voters and put Airbnb back into our residential neighborhoods. Instead of calling them “Vacation Rentals” they’re now calling them “Hosted Rentals,” and the city wants to put 200 of them in our neighborhoods.

We need housing for locals, not tourists. When locals compete with tourists for housing, locals lose.

The details of these regulations have been in flux at every recent council meeting, but in its latest iteration, the city will be allowing corporate-owned houses with at least one existing full-time renter to rent the rest of the house as an Airbnb.

This is an example of an ordinance that invites unintended consequences.

The market for residential housing here in Tahoe overwhelmingly favors landlords, not the locals. Locals are being forced out of our community by skyrocketing rents as it is. If this ordinance passes, we will absolutely see unscrupulous absentee landlords effectively force locals into hosting Airbnb as a condition of their tenancy or as a way for them to extract higher rents.

This may not happen legally but cheating will happen.

And as we’ve seen with Airbnb so far, there is no possibility that the city can or will effectively enforce regulations. We’ll see the McMansions back as Airbnb with nominal caretaker tenants, renting the rest of the house out as a party mansion. Exactly what Measure T was meant to stop. The benefits will not go to locals. It will go to landlords.

Half of all housing units in our city, half, are second homes. Ten percent of all housing units are VHRs. When there is more profit to be made in turning homes into tourist enterprises, it reduces the supply of housing for locals and raises the rents for everyone.

At the Oct. 20 council meeting, Councilwoman Brooke Laine said, “We have the experience to do this right.”

The current situation with Airbnb and the need for Measure T absolutely proves this wrong. We need to be thinking about how to protect our neighborhoods and put locals first. I’m running for city council for exactly that reason.

Soctt Robbins is a South Lake Tahoe resident and a candidate for city council.

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