A “vacation rental investor” and “proprietor of fine Airbnbs,” X user blasted South Lake Tahoe’s short-term rental ban yesterday in a post with over a million views.
Rohin Dhar, who claims to have Airbnbs in Sonoma, Kauai, Taos, Mount Hood, Yosemite, and Asheville, wrote that the resort city’s near total ban implemented more than five years ago created a “short-term rental Armageddon.” However, instead of easing the housing affordability crisis within the city, he claims, “home prices cratered and people scooped them up as second homes,” and he claims that some of them are sitting empty.
“There is still a housing affordability crisis…when a resort area bans Airbnb, the only thing that happens is wealthy people get good deals on second homes that mostly sit around vacant,” Dhar wrote on the social media platform, mocking the so-called Measure T.
Measure T was a citizen-initiated ballot measure intended to regulate vacation or short-term home rentals in South Lake Tahoe, as the city’s website states. It went into effect at the end of 2018 and required the phasing-out of all vacation home rental permits in residential areas and across all multifamily properties over a three-year period. Of course, it also prohibited new vacation home rental permits in residential areas. But Measure T doesn’t apply to existing or future short term rentals in non-residential areas—and some people can still rent their homes, if they’re a permanent resident and are renting their entire home for up to 30 days a year.
In the summer of last year, an appeals court upheld Measure T’s ban on short term rentals after the South Lake Tahoe Property Owners Group filed a lawsuit—although one issue, regarding permanent residents’ ability to rent their homes, was sent back to trial court, according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a local paper.
From the end of 2018 to the end of last year, home prices in South Lake Tahoe rose roughly 42% to an average home value of $649,322, per Zillow (although they are down over the past year). The median rent for all bedrooms and all property types in the city is $2,975, which is close to 50% higher than the national median.
A recently published opinion piece in the Tahoe Daily Tribune written by Amelia Richmond, the president of Locals for Affordable Housing, pushed for a vacancy tax, claiming “as home prices have doubled in the last decade, a staggering 44% of all housing in South Lake Tahoe—over 7,000 homes—now sit empty most of the year. Since 2000, the increase in vacancies has outpaced new housing construction, resulting in more vacant houses and fewer homes for residents.” The housing crisis, she wrote, was pushing locals out of town.
Clearly there’s still an issue of affordability, one that must have been worsened by the pandemic-fueled housing boom, which sent home prices up substantially nationwide, followed by a surge in mortgage rates. But it’s important to note that some research has shown that Airbnbs can impact long-term rentals. One paper, for instance, found that a short-term rental ordinance in a city in southern California led to a 2.7% decline in contracted long-term rental prices on average—meaning, that when you take Airbnbs away, generally rents go down.
“You have oversupplied the market, so people stopped renting their property short-term [and] they started renting it long-term,” one researcher said at the time. “That’s an increase in supply, and therefore that should put downward pressure on prices, and it did.”
Still, it may not be a universal phenomenon, when it comes to rental properties or even location. But more often than not Airbnbs will be blamed for contributing to unaffordable housing costs, and property owners and Airbnb investors will argue the opposite. Airbnb even hired its first senior housing economist, with a goal to address “misunderstandings” about the housing market and Airbnb, according to Skift.
Dhar did not respond to a request for comment.