Another Voice: Short-term rentals are not vested in the community

I am writing about the residency requirements for short term rentals (STRs) in Hood River County. Many STRs are owned by non-residents who live elsewhere. Many are second vacation homes; most don’t have permits. The permit application for a STR requires the owner state they live in the house for 30 days or more in a calendar year. If so, a person can have 12 different residences in a calendar year.

There are many reasons why a 30-day residency requirement is not a good idea.

Community and residency:

Our neighborhood has a ridiculously large number of second homes, 25-plus non-resident landowners on our 1.8-mile road, according to the county Web Map. Our community is transitioning from an area where everyone knows each other and helps one another to one with empty houses and a rotating cast of strangers. We know of six active STRs on our road. We also know eight neighbors who travel part of the year but don’t rent as STRs. There are also several full time rentals and a few second homes, not rented out.

We live out of a city because the character of living rurally drew us here. Every area has a local group who say hi to each other and look out for one another. We wave, we smile, we celebrate happy events and we mourn when one of us passes. We know who belong and who doesn’t. We can call our neighbors about their kids, driving, dogs, cats, lost pet, livestock at large, broken fence, etc. and work it out together. We can ask for help when needed. STRs with visiting owners and visiting guests are not vested in community.

Safety:

People who do not live in rural areas are not aware of the safety involved when sharing the road with people, livestock and farm equipment, as well as danger of forest fires. Most of Hood River County is rural and there are no sidewalks or shoulders wide enough for people walking or jogging, with or without dogs and baby carriages, kids learning how to ride a bicycle, adult bicycle riders, people riding horses and slow farm equipment. Many homes are rented to people from other areas who may not know to slow and yield to these local people who use the road for the above purposes. Many areas where people come from go by the rule that the larger you are the more right of way you have. That puts people and pets at the bottom of the list. Some people still throw out lit cigarette butts. (Just last week I watched one tossed out of a truck on I-84 in Portland.) Allowing STRs with a 30 day “residency” means more strangers diminishing the relative safety of rural living.

Inconsistent and contractor requirements:

The City of Hood River already has a definition in place for residency, almost identical to the one the planning commission supports. Why not use their requirements in order to be consistent with all of the residents in Hood River County?

Discrimination:

The 30-day resident requirement favors wealthy people who can own two or more homes, live in another place and only visit this county. There are more requirements to obtain a “resident” Hood River County Community Identification Card than a definition of “resident” for a STR. Is that fair?

Commercial enterprise:

Many STRs are just money making business rentals, which is not the purpose of allowing STRs. The 30 day residency affidavit allows for this type of commercial enterprise to exist on land not zoned for such.

Affordable housing:

The argument is true that STRs restricts affordable housing for many people who want to live here full time and drives up the price of homes in Hood River County because people know they can pay for their second house and make a profit.

We encourage the Board of Commissioners to add a strong residency definition to the zoning code for Short Term Rentals (STRs) in Hood River County; one that places no doubt the house is the applicant’s domicile and real permanent home, with specific requirements. They will be holding a hearing to make a decision on the STR rules on Monday, Aug. 20.



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