Letter: Regarding proposed changes to the VHR ordinance
I own and live in a cabin with a guest house. My husband and I work in hospitality, and we’re active in our community. Our guest house is a studio — we rent it to couples sometimes, and use it for family other times. When we first bought our house we rented our studio long-term, but it was challenging. It’s small, doesn’t have a closet and is only comfortable for one full-time occupant. Our neighbors like us and we have improved our property considerably, including paving our driveway. We have never had a complaint and we pay thousands of dollars in taxes and fees to the city annually.
I was surprised by the amendment to the current VHR ordinance prohibiting all multi-family properties from obtaining a permit or renewing existing permits. As a multi-unit VHR owner, I had received no notification of the proposed change. At the city council meeting I met a number of people like myself who have small multi-unit VHR properties, many of whom live in one unit and rent the other(s). Among us was a man counting on his VHR income for retirement, another man who used his VA loan to buy his property, and a woman with a long-term renter in one cabin and a part-time VHR in her personal cabin. These are not apartment building owners, yet the city council repeatedly referred to multi-family properties as apartments.
The reality is that a multi-family property can refer to anything from a house with a mother-in-law unit to an apartment complex. Admittedly there is a real shortage of affordable housing and it is a huge challenge to solve. A ban on apartment buildings as VHRs makes sense, but the city is casting too wide a net by prohibiting all VHRs on multi-unit parcels. Lack of affordable housing is a complex issue and multi-family property VHRs are just one piece. When I look down my street half the houses are second homes that are empty 80 percent of the year. There are also many unpermitted VHRs that go unregulated. It does not make sense that under the current VHR code I can buy a single-family house, get a VHR permit and turn it into a vacation rental; I could even buy multiple single-family houses or condos and turn them into to VHRs, but I can’t continue to operate my tiny guest house as a VHR.
I urge you to come to the next city council meeting June 7.
South Lake Tahoe, Calif.