Illegal short-term vacation rentals hurt all Ashlanders

and Ellen Campbell

Defying Ashland municipal codes and Oregon state laws, the number of illegal short-term home rentals has skyrocketed in Ashland in the past few years. This trend is growing, and negatively affects all citizens of Ashland — regardless of occupation or home-ownership status.

These illegal, unlicensed and uninspected short-term vacation rentals (renting for less than 30 days) destabilize neighborhood integrity by increased traffic, excessive noise and parking issues. They create unfair business competition by stealing visitors from the tax-paying, employment-providing licensed lodging establishments.

They cheat the city and state of badly needed tax revenues, thereby forcing the city to increase other fees and taxes such as utilities and property tax to compensate the shortfall, which ultimately affects all citizens. They further exacerbate an already tight housing supply for local residents, resulting in increased housing/rental costs. Being underinsured and uninspected, they pose liability issues to the vacationers.

Estimates of how many illegal short-term rentals exist in the city of Ashland vary, ranging conservatively from 50 to more likely in excess of 75 properties. If there were only a few scattered throughout the city, it would not be worth the city's effort to enforce its own municipal codes. However, the number of illegal rentals nearly exceeds the 76 legally licensed lodging establishments in Ashland.

Many U.S. towns and cities have faced similar issues and have dealt with it one way or another. Ashland is in a better position than most cities by already having a clearly defined municipal code that prohibits short-term rentals in R-1 single-family residential zones.

Ashland residents do not want to live next to properties that change occupants a number of times in a month. Many residents are asking why the city is not enforcing the existing municipal codes as it pertains to short-term rentals. These citizens want and deserve:

  • A safe and quiet neighborhood where they know and trust their neighbors.
  • To preserve the quality of their neighborhood without traffic, noise and parking issues.
  • To have the city collect the proper amount of lodging taxes to fund necessary city infrastructure and grants to nonprofit organizations.
  • Just housing practices.
  • A fair playing field for existing licensed businesses.

The city needs to enforce its codes and shut down the illegal short-term rentals in R-1 single-family zones. In other city zones where short-term rentals are allowed, either encourage the operators to become compliant or shut them down if they don't comply.

The Ashland City Council will be discussing this issue at its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 5. Ashlanders concerned about the impact of these illegal operations in their neighborhood have an opportunity to address the City Council at this meeting.

Abi Maghamfar and Ellen Campbell are members of the Ashland Lodging Association, a 46-member organization of licensed hotels, motels, inns, B&Bs and vacation rentals, and wrote this on behalf of the association.

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