Swinging for the fences more often than not ends in an abundance of strikeouts, and both state lawmakers and some local officials appear set to swing away at a pair almost certain failures when it comes to regulating short-term rentals.
It’s an issue local elected officials statewide have struggled to address as online booking services like Airbnb have made it easier for homeowners to make money renting their vacation homes to travelers for a few days at a time. The convenient browsing, booking and management platforms have created a booming side industry in many vacation destinations.
Municipalities, including Traverse City, have placed strict limits on the booming lodging sector in a patchwork of attempts to address concerns from neighbors who complain the new sector has injected inappropriate commercial use into areas set aside solely for residential purposes.
Those full-time residents recount a plethora of horror stories when investor-owners snatch space on otherwise quiet streets and convert houses into a revolving door of short-time tenants who unwind in ways not typically tolerated in polite neighborhoods.
Yet there are plenty of responsible property owners who quietly earn needed extra income by leasing their extra space to vacationers looking for a slice of paradise without the investment in a second home.
The first regulatory whiff in what promises to be a season of strikeouts was registered earlier this summer when a downstate lawmaker sponsored a bill that would strip local governments of any ability to regulate short-term rentals. The proposal sounds like a good idea, particularly to homeowners who bristle at the government dictating how we use our property.
And why shouldn’t homeowners be allowed carte blanche use of their homes? After all, the local board of commissioners isn’t the one paying the mortgage.
But opponents have pointed out a plethora of problems with a state regulation that bans local regulation of such properties. The measure would effectively render local governments unable to ensure responsible management of such short-stint property managers, gutting their ability to take punitive action against those who allow raucous visitors or overwhelming numbers of tenants in small homes.
Meanwhile a Traverse City planning commissioner recently proposed an all-out moratorium on short-term rentals locally until officials can determine how, and if, they should be allowed.
It’s the kind of proposal that could shape up to be a dismal second strike.
This type of all-or-none thinking on both sides of the issue will produce predictably unsatisfying and undesirable effects.
Instead lawmakers and local boards should consider proposals like one floated recently in East Bay Township would require registration and licensing for each rental property. That process would set occupancy standards and give local officials recourse to revoke licenses for problem properties.
Why reinvent the wheel when several communities have already created licensing policies for vacation rentals that work?
Because recent swing-for-the-fences swats at solving a statewide problem promise to end in strikeouts.
- Short-term rental battle rife with extremes
- Absolutes promise disaster for cities, homeowners