Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Just limit everybody to one

Yesterday's CPC meeting on short term rentals had its share of the usual attendant goofiness and melodrama. Eric Bay coined a new hashtag. Some people told some very personal and questionably relevant stories. A lady made her young daughter tell a story. Bingo cards were filled out. Props were introduced.  Ben Harwood (this Ben Harwood) got told.
Ben Harwood — a developer with more than a dozen STRs in Treme — said he now has vacant properties and projects-in-statis with the recent moratorium and has “no idea what’s going to happen.”

“It makes me want to sell my properties and move to another city,” he told the CPC.

One group at the meeting shouted, “Please do!”

It was weird enough. But it wasn't quite as wild as these confrontations have been in the past.  Mostly everybody said their piece according to a now well-established script. Also there wasn't a whole lot at stake yet.  That doesn't come until we start to see what the new regulations produced by this process actually look like. And the encouraging thing about that is, there's growing consensus around perhaps the most critical change people have asked for.
But operators and STR critics now are largely on the same page when it comes to demanding a homestead exemption requirement, which the previous City Council had briefly considered before abandoning in its final STR rules.

That requirement would stipulate that the owner of the STR must also live on the property. It currently is part of the conditions for “accessory”-type rentals, like a spare room or guest house or half of a shotgun double.

It would effectively wipe out temporary rentals as they’re currently defined.
As always, much depends on details so we'll wait to see how this principle we all seem to agree on now is applied to the law.  Ideally the new regulations should eliminate the tiered definitions of STRs  leaving only the "accessory" variant permitted. It should also ditch the multifarious and easily manipulated permissions applied differently according to zoning. Just limit everybody who wants to rent out their home to... their one home.  If we end up with a situation where these South Market properties financed with public money can fill up with STRs or companies like Marriot (who is getting into the business now) can own and operate a hundreds of them in neighborhoods all over town then the we still will not have gotten this right.

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