Short Term Rentals – Case # 21CV46002

Update 3.11.22 – News Times – Good Read. County Commissioners Say they are Defending Ballot Measure

Lincoln County Circuit Court hearing audio for case number 21CV46002. “The arguments Wednesday revolved around whether the measure falls under Oregon’s land-use laws and if the circuit court has jurisdiction to issue a permanent injunction against the measure” – Yachats News

We are on a long and windy legal road as our community seeks to find balance with how homes may be used as short-term rentals in unincorporated Lincoln County.  Yesterday, I took the day off work and spent the greater part of my day and evening acquiring Wednesday’s two-hour circuit court hearing on audio then converting that into a video for you.

I really recommend you take a few moments to examine this discussion. If anything, I would like you to realize how this is a dynamic issue. Beyond the headlines there are implications for every choice we make when it comes to how to regulate STRs.

Choosing to phase out STRs is a decision that requires policy. Choosing to allow STRs requires policy.  Ultimately, in our community, in our society – we have rules about how humans can use their homes as rentals. Even long-term rentals are not without many rules and regulations.

In 2016 the County launched its first licensing program (Ordinance #487). Since then, there have been many revisions to the original ordinance. My observation is that along the way STR usage grew faster than our ability (and arguably are awareness and empathy) to recognize our policy wasn’t keeping up with what residents needed. Measure 21-203 demonstrates the community taking the bull by the horns. But, again all choices have implications. Time and money are two of them.

We’ve come a long way from when owning a home was in some cases cheaper than owning a vehicle. Homes are commodities now and the implications are profound for all of us.  Affordable shelter is hard to come by. My observation is that many feel eliminating STRs will help chip away at the lack of housing in this community. I think that is a reasonable assessment. I also feel that this will not solve the affordable housing problem in the big picture.

We need current data. Median household income $41,996 (2012) (here is the old – new econ study needed), stats on all current STRs, and prosperity models comparing long term vs. short terms economic models. More info would help us evaluate how to compare the usages. Of course, quality of life is not necessarily a number. And therein might be a clue to the larger challenge of modern living. Measuring life in $$$ just might be the wrong data set for “spiritual beings having a human experience”. Nevertheless, policymakers should use real-life data to better address the challenge and reduce bias.

Somewhere along the way it felt like the vote for STRs became politicized, supercharged with emotion and the source of statements in ALL CAPS. Saying 21-203 “won by a landslide” and that “STRs are not affordable housing” are both studies in semantics.

If Measure 21-203 is ruled unconstitutional my recommendation is that we get more data, dig deeper into our previous ordinances and create new rules that have the nuance required to preserve the livability of neighborhoods, provide homes for families that live and work in our community, and allow the limited use of homes as shorter-term rentals.

One of my favorite economists, John List says “Economics is life, and life is economics.” While I hesitate to agree I do like his approaches to field study. Perhaps, we roll out new regulation, where possible, in smaller doses and see how they perform. Given the variation of homes here, our neighborhood topography and the people that live in both we appear to need more complexity. Medium income varies across the county’s geography. Our home is remarkable and no wonder so many come to experience it and then try and find some space for themselves.

Test your patience and see how far you can make it listening to this hearing.  I’ve listened to it twice now and it is dynamic to say the least. But if you would rather (or in addition) Yachats News has some good coverage of the hearing: