Long-term commitments better for Holland, by Nancy De Boer, published in the Holland Sentinel on 9/22/17
About 18 months ago I would have agreed with the Sept. 21 “Our Take” in the Holland Sentinel that said allowing short-term rentals anywhere in town is an extension of basic property rights.
But now, after studying this issue intently and talking with regional and national elected leaders, I have better understanding of the consequences and costs that come along the unfettered growth of short-term rentals.
Although I support Airbnb and short-term rentals in our city’s commercially zoned areas, we must be more cautious when it comes to turning them loose in residential neighborhoods.
Allowing short-term rentals in residential areas will hurt our schools, our neighborhoods, and our low-income singles and families seeking affordable housing.
#1 Certainly, the fact that Airbnb and short-term rental agents are attracted to Holland proves we’ve got many great things happening here. But the downside is that as more and more people are attracted to our city, housing prices inevitably go up and the supply of affordable housing shrinks. This adds to the housing woes of singles, single parents, and families on low or fixed incomes.
#2 Holland has rolled out a friendly Welkom to visitors and tourists for generations. You’ve witnessed the wonderful expansion of our hotels, shops, and eateries over the years. Establishing Airbnb and short-term rentals to our dynamic commercially zoned areas only makes sense. Keep in mind Airbnb and short-term rentals also add to the cost of city services; including public safety, emergency planning and response, and streets and parking. So it makes sense to target our increased costs within our commercially zoned areas, too. It’s more efficient.
#3 What actually impactsi economic opportunity and the quality of life in any community the most is the heartfelt and rooted commitment of its long-termers, not the comings and goings of it short-termers. The future in Holland is more secure when the focus is on long-term investment, not the short-term dealings between homeowners, short-term renters, and transaction agents.
#4 Consider the math. If a two-bedroom house in Holland can rent for $1200 a month, could you blame the owner for wanting to rent it out for $600 per week? I can’t. But I’m not going to pretend this is a good thing. We’d see the stability of our neighborhoods flee along with the low-income folks we have pushed out of the housing market.
#5 Holland is not alone in having a compassionate heart for low-income singles and families. And we can learn from other cities that jumped onto the short-term rental bandwagon months ago and regret it. Many of them now have to provide housing vouchers at taxpayer expense to low-wage earners and/or have been forced to pressure their local non-profits to ramp up their efforts to alleviate a growing affordable housing crisis.
#6 If you can believe it, there are a few homeowners (in other cities, of course!) who could care less about conditions in their neighborhood or what anyone is renting out. So you can imagine their shock when they later discover their own property tax bills have skyrocketed! All thanks to “rental income potential” getting added into their new assessment.
#7 Clearly, allowing Airbnb and short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods will hurt our local preK-12 schools. Short-termers come here to visit extended family, vacation, shop, and conduct business. They aren’t here to enroll their children in school. Like our city, the health of Holland Public Schools is strengthened when our focus is on long-term commitment, long-term economic stability, and the availability of long-term affordable housing.
#8 It would’ve been nice if the 9/21 “Our Take” had not ignored the fact that Holland residents already have short-term rental rights at their disposal. Today – with minimal government intrusion or regulation – homeowners can rent out their homes for up to 30 days while away and/or can rent out a room in their home for an entire year if they also live there, too. (All possible without any negative consequences!)
#9 Short-term rental arrangements are not all bad. Please don’t think this is the point I’m trying to make. I just agree with the City Planning Commission’s recommendation that Airbnb and short-term rental arrangements should be limited to our commercially zoned areas. This is the best and prudent path.
We shouldn’t approve something that would hurt:
I believe the long-term interest of Holland is better served by public policy that promotes FEWER ABSENTEE LANDLORDS, not more of them.
Nancy De Boer, Mayor, City of Holland
This My Side can be found on the Holland Sentinel web site HERE.
9/30/17: A Holland resident appreciates Nancy's concern for "Making More Low-Income Housing Available." Read her Letter To The Editor HERE.
9/23/17: An e-mail response to Nancy's My Take, printed here, with permission:
Good Morning, Mayor Nancy -
It was with interest that I read your article regarding short-term rentals. I also appreciate your willingness to explain your views and preserve important aspects of Holland.
To refresh your memory, we met about a year ago to discuss the concept of establishing a foundation on behalf of the city’s historical holdings. Since that time, my husband and I have purchased a home in Holland and anticipate relocating from North Carolina in March of 2018. With our forthcoming move to our new found home, I read the “Holland Sentinel” and thus saw yesterday’s article.
Likely, you’ve heard similar stories but am relaying so as to support your thoughts. Below are two, one from afar and one quite near. Maine: Friends have lived on the Portland coast for two decades with an ocean view. In recent years, houses on both sides of theirs came into the ownership of those affiliated with Home Away, VRBO or similar. The established community members never knew their neighbors, faced uncertainty as to when and for how long the houses would be occupied and by how many doing what. The ripple effect extended to other established neighbors. The short version is the situation led to them selling a lovely home with a view. Part of living in a community is having a community.
Local: I grew up along Lake Michigan in a town similar to areas in Holland. Over the years, the township never sought restrictions on rentals and now are regretting it. The dynamics have changed dramatically and it is now quite hard to make change. A large percentage of rentals exist creating a tourist haven and all the good that comes with it but a vacuum in the “off season.” Even the elementary school closed as the number of permanent families dropped. If interested, I can discuss more in person. Another unfortunate outcome of some (not all) rentals is the trust of people adhering to standards and requirements. No news to you but there are repeated cases of instead of eight people in a home, 20 are present which bring additional challenges.
As always, appreciate your service to the community of which we look forward to being part.
10/4/17: The city of Zeeland has joined other local municipalities in expressing concerns about short-term rentals. Read the city's statement HERE.