10/23/23 - Short Term Rentals

It's that time, we have to have the talk. No, not that talk. Not that one either. The one about Short Term Rentals (STRs). As you may have heard, they are being banned in the new zoning code in a broad swath of the city. About 77% of it, if the Environmental Impact Statement is to be believed. The remaining quarter of it isn't exactly friendly to short term rentals either (you turn into a hotel pretty quick, and those are even more restricted), but they're at least a permitted use. 

How is the city going to confirm the tenancy of a unit? Who knows. Stays of less than 31 days are banned. What does that mean for someone renting month to month in February or June? Who knows. Do you own a duplex in a medium density residential zone and want to rent out the unit next to you as an STR? You can't (bet you thought I was going to say who knows)! What about renting out your house while you're in Florida for the winter? Who knows. Are you a nurse in town for a 1 month contract? Stay outside the city and don't spend any of your crazy salary in town, please.

So I assume we're here on account of the Comp. Plan having some stern words for short term rentals. Let's check the tape...

I'm sorry, what now? This is the genesis for eliminating STRs in 3/4s of the city? I suppose it's easier to establish relationships with STR companies and partner with hosts if there aren't any. And the crazy thing is, there aren't that many to begin with. I just did a quick search for whole units in the city available in January and got 392 results. Even if every last one of them was an entire house in Low Density Residential, this is less than 1% of the single family homes in the city (and a third of a percent of housing units in the city). 

What problem are we solving with these draconian regulations? Having a place in the city for Red Wings players to stay when the team is in town? I'm being facetious, of course (though the ban will do that). The problem we're trying to solve is this. But for as tragic as that situation is, it makes up an incredibly minuscule fraction of shootings in the city, and we're not making any progress banning cars to stop drive-by shootings.

I want to be clear, I'm not advocating against regulations, or registries, or taxes, or fees on STRs. What I think is wrong is adding a complete ban directly to the zoning code. Especially as the code makes real strides in collapsing categories like all indoor commercial uses. And I know what you're thinking, STRs are uniquely problematic and neighborhoods don't want them. But so are convenience stores (or, like STRs, the perceptions around them), and the new zoning code is an absolute bonanza for them by allowing them everywhere in existing buildings and with no parking. One almost wonders if the valid concerns of different neighborhoods are being heard and implemented differently. I mean, what does the comp plan say about them?