Raw truth about uncapped short-term rentals

The raw truth about the impact of short-term rentals on housing is not unique to Lincoln County. Popular tourist destinations throughout Oregon and beyond are struggling with the balancing act of supporting tourism but not sacrificing housing for residents.

STR investors want to convince the masses that there is no need to cap STRs in the unincorporated county because their locale is cost prohibitive to anyone other than investors profiting off the income of operating businesses in residential neighborhoods. Take a drive through any of these neighborhoods: Beverly Beach, Gleneden Beach, Pacific Shores and Surfland. You will see these neighborhoods and many others full of average single-family homes, many of which have been consumed by STR investors. There are greater than 1,500 STRs in the entire county, plus hotel/motels and campgrounds to provide accommodations for tourists. When does the county say enough is enough and institute a permanent cap?

My unincorporated neighborhood houses health care workers, educators, engineers, law enforcement, heavy equipment operators, carpenters, plumbers, retired military and many other industries that are essential for the county. Sadly, 10 percent of the housing in my neighborhood has turned to STR use. This is an irreplaceable loss of housing for incoming families. Many other neighborhoods have lost as much as 50 percent housing to STR investors.

As cities cracked down and put caps on STRs, the shrinkage of available housing is starkly apparent in the unincorporated county. A Lincoln County housing strategy plan 2019 reveals that Lincoln City has a policy to “control the number and location of vacation rentals” to preserve adequate housing. Depoe Bay suggests “phasing out of the existing short-term rental use of dwelling units.”  More recently, Yachats and Newport have implemented caps on STRs to preserve residential housing and minimize the impacts of STRs.

A 2018 Housing Analysis and Action Plan for Coos County says, “Housing that has been converted to seasonal vacation rentals combined with very little new production has led to a housing crisis in the county since 2010 – the county’s population has remained relatively static but has lost more than 1,500 housing units in the housing supply chain. The workforce feels the impact of this constrained supply and housing prices and rental rates remain artificially high as a result.”

A Deschutes County report, Housing for Moderate-Income Households, says, “The region’s housing options for people of moderate and middle incomes lacks supply to meet current demand and future needs. The supply of vacant and available housing across the region is remarkably low and short- term vacation rentals are thought to consume a portion of the supply that would otherwise be available to residents in some areas.”

Key findings and recommendations for Clatsop County, according to their housing study done 2018, states, “Control commercial use of residential land — non-residential uses of housing units should be discouraged and/or controlled to the extent possible. This includes housing used purely for short-term rental and investment income. It can be helpful to shift the mindset to thinking of these as commercial uses (like a hotel) taking place in residential zones where they may not be appropriate.”

What will the vision of Lincoln County be: “Investors welcome, residents get out,” or “Lincoln County, where we support all our residents and future residents?” 

All registered Lincoln County voters have a voice. Sign the STR petition at 15neighborhoods.com and/or show support for immediate caps through input to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners.

Traci Burks is a resident of Beverly Beach.


More In Opinion