Tony Biasotti, Special to The Star
Oct 4, 2016
Ventura County residents should get accustomed to vacation rentals in their neighborhoods, at least if they live near the beach, and owners of the rental properties should get used to the idea of new local regulations.
That was the consensus of a panel discussion on short-term vacation rentals, held Tuesday at the annual Housing Opportunities Made Easier conference, or HOME, in Camarillo. The panel — consisting of a property manager of vacation rentals, a real estate agent who lives in a neighborhood full of beach rentals, and a policy expert for a real estate agents association — discussed the pros and cons of short-term rentals and the likely future of the regulations many cities are contemplating.
The city of Ojai has banned all rentals shorter than 30 days, but that option isn’t open in beach cities because the California Coastal Commission has declared that complete bans are inconsistent with its mission to preserve affordable options for beach visitors. Residents of beach neighborhoods in and around Oxnard have asked for limits on rentals there, and the city of Ventura is considering changing its rules because of an outcry from people in the rental-rich Pierpont neighborhood.
Beach rentals are nothing new, but they’ve proliferated in recent years with the rise of websites such as Airbnb that market such rentals. People who live full time in the neighborhoods complain of noise, trash and other disturbances from partying tourists, and some housing advocates worry that turning homes into vacation rentals takes them out of the permanent housing market and drives up rents.
There’s not much evidence to support the housing claims, at least according to a recent study on vacation rentals by economist Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast, who presented his research to the HOME conference Tuesday.
Schniepp studied short-term rentals in Santa Barbara County, which, as an international tourist destination, probably has a higher concentration of vacation rentals than Ventura County. In an interview after the HOME conference, Schniepp said he would expect a similar survey in Ventura County to show very similar results.
In Santa Barbara County, there are an estimated 2,550 short-term rental units, representing 3.1 percent of the housing supply in the city of Santa Barbara and 1.2 percent in the rest of the county. Schniepp sent surveys to owners of 1,660 of those properties, and 19 percent of those owners responded, which Schniepp said is a good rate of return for that type of survey.
One of the survey questions was what the owner would do with the property if short-term rentals were banned. Only 5.6 percent said they would rent to long-term tenants, and 11 percent said they would sell their rental homes.
From that data, Schniepp concluded that 424 units in Santa Barbara County are taken out of the rental or sale market because they are used as vacation rentals. That amounts to 0.5 percent of the housing supply in the city of Santa Barbara and 0.2 percent in the rest of the county.
Most of those homes would not be considered “affordable” by any stretch of the imagination. According to Schniepp’s survey, two-thirds of vacation rental properties in Santa Barbara County have a market value of $1.5 million or greater, and the same portion would rent for at least $3,000 per month as long-term rentals.
“You’re looking at million-dollar homes, which no one considers affordable housing,” said Marta Golding Brown, a panelist and the government affairs director for the Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors.
Schniepp’s research also cast doubt on the idea that vacation renters are especially troublesome to their neighbors. The rate of noise and other nuisance complaints about short-term rentals is about the same as for homes occupied by their full-time residents.
It is clear, though, that some residents are bothered frequently by vacationers in their neighborhoods. Helene Keddington, a real estate agent and a member of the panel, lives in Mandalay Shores, a beach neighborhood in Oxnard. She said about five vacation rentals are near her home. During the summer months, she said, she’s awakened by partying renters about every other weekend.
“People come out for three or four days, and they do things they would not do in their own communities,” Keddington said. “All night, until 2 or 3 in the morning, they’re yelling, drinking, shooting off fireworks, playing music.”
The third panelist, Kristina Brewer, is a property manager for Re/Max Gold Coast who has 82 vacation rentals in her portfolio, most of them in beach areas of Oxnard and Ventura.
Brewer said she pays the same bed taxes as hotels, enforces strict rules for the properties she manages, and pays extra for security and trash pickup. This summer, she started requiring seven-day minimum stays in all her properties, which is the rule for all properties in the city of Ventura. That greatly reduced nuisance complaints from the neighbors, Brewer said.
“If you give us structure on what to do to enforce it, tell us what we need to do, we’ll follow the rules,” she said. “The city of Ventura is going in the right direction. I’m hoping they do the same thing for the county, because I don’t think vacation rentals are going anywhere.”