Anti-Short Term Rental (STR) rhetoric in Idyllwild has reached a fever pitch. While excessive noise and disruptive parties certainly have a negative impact, some folk are spreading misinformation that goes far beyond disturbance or parking issues. These claims are often anecdotal and unsupported by data. One of the concerns, however, reflects a challenge in our community that deserves further attention.
The shortage of long-term affordable housing is a problem that must be addressed in a comprehensive way. But simply blaming STRs is misguided. There is no data to suggest that STRs have “created” a shortage. Local Realtors have reported extremely low instances of long-term renters being evicted for STR conversions. Most homes that have been converted were previously “second homes” that sat vacant for much of the year—sometimes attracting criminal activity.
A handful of people (who I imagine would feel differently in most circumstances) now seem eager for the government to intervene to tell homeowners what to do with their private property — all in the name of affordable housing. The key word is “affordable.”
The average home price in Idyllwild is $450,000. To cover a mortgage payment, taxes and expenses (while clearing a modest profit), owners would need to charge around $3,000 per month. If new restrictions practically forced owners to transform their properties into long-term rentals, would that housing actually be affordable? Perhaps those who want to get rid of STRs assume that all home values (including their own) will significantly decrease, resulting in lower rents.
Unfortunately, responsible STRs owners like me and my wife are often demonized as greedy outsiders with no regard for the people and culture of Idyllwild. Nothing could be further from the truth. We adore Idyllwild. We consider ourselves part of the community. Though it would be a dream for us, we are not in a position (career-wise) to move here full-time and, frankly, we can’t afford a second home without an opportunity to offset costs. Renting our cabin as a part-time STR is precisely how we get to spend time in this place we enjoy so much.
In the early 1900s, loose clusters of short-term lodging facilities drew tourists from off the Hill who then lobbied Congress to establish a forest reserve to save the area from destruction by the timber industry. Idyllwild was literally built on tourism and short-term renters. The tradition of extending hospitality to visitors is woven into the very fabric of who we are. Today’s visitors continue to have a significant economic impact on our town, so continuing to welcome them—in a responsible and thoughtful way—is important.
Fortunately, my wife and I have found good friends and fellow conscientious STR operators who have formed a group called Idyllwild Vacation Rental Owners (IVRO). We invite you to join us online at www.idyllwildvro.org/blog where we address many of the other concerns that have recently been raised.
IVRO folk are good people. We genuinely love Idyllwild, and we hope you’ll join our conversation.
Scott B. Bomar