Vacation rentals and Airbnb are continuously being slammed in many cities around the world, turning long-term homes into short-term vacation rentals, causing housing shortages for locals and gentrification of vacation destinations.
Although this may be valid, fair short-term rental laws and regulations in unregulated cities and tourist destinations encourage responsible rentals, create added value for local communities, create job opportunities and local tax revenues, and help local businesses.
That said, let’s dig deeper into
For a long time, vacation rentals have been exempted from local rules and regulations. However, this paradigm may shift over the next five to ten years when vacation rentals will become increasingly governed by laws and regulations resulting in overly restrictive policies that are unfair to the vacation rental industry.
Keep in mind, this growing industry has contributed an earning to local communities. Based on Research And Markets, in 2016, the vacation rental industry was valued at $100 billion. However, it was predicted to reach $167 billion in 2019.
That being said, it is now or never for property managers to participate in discussions at local and state levels, especially with increasing short-term rental business and regulatory concerns. Speaking up, getting involved, and participating now in creating policies is far cheaper and more efficient than responding with lawsuits or remedial policies.
Vacation rentals have frequently been portrayed in the media as the only cause of the problems in the local communities: gentrification and housing shortages in areas like Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Venice.
Apart from that, refusing to acknowledge that unlicensed bad actors are responsible for these problems and when properly regulated, short-term rentals can be tremendously advantageous to local communities.
VRMA Advocacy Fund aims to:
The ultimate objective of advocacy is to speak out and work together in promoting added value vacation rentals can provide to the local communities. In fact, is not about simply achieving the best outcomes for vacation rental businesses but protecting the neighborhood and developing laws that will benefit both parties.
Think about it. When local governments implement strict rules on vacation rentals in a city/region, policymakers fail to see beyond the impact which deprives local communities of its benefits. Moreover, arbitrary restrictions worsen problems rather than solve them and foster criminal behaviors which could possibly lead to a loss of accountability.
There have been a number of cases where short-term rental operators or owners have always supported necessary and appropriate regulations. But, in some instances, unfair laws have denied opportunities to the local communities.
Take, for example, Scotland's regulations on vacation rentals. The local authorities introduced an unreasonable licensing system to short-term investors who only want to rent for a few weeks each year for a short period of time. Several property owners are forgoing the new regulations, which rob them of earning additional income and eliminate the real sharing economy in the hospitality industry.
Policymakers, politicians, and other stakeholders frequently do not have the depth knowledge of short-term rentals and their industry. Therefore, it is sadly portrayed negatively and misunderstood causing stringent regulations affecting small businesses, entrepreneurs, and communities.
For instance, based on outdated concepts of what the hospitality industry is due to eligibility requirements, small businesses and entrepreneurs struggle to receive government assistance during the COVID outbreak which is why it is important to be heard. If not, the local authorities may not consider the market's complexity and implement strict rules that exclude small businesses.
Property managers must then ensure that they are involved in discussions to protect their businesses and false information by speaking up and educating the government on what they need and how vacation rentals benefit the community.
Know exactly what's going on in your community before anything else.
Understanding the current situation will help understand what issues should be addressed in advocacy.
Search or start a local short-term advocacy group. More importantly, join groups in your local association or STAA (The Short-Term Accommodation Association). Don’t forget, that teaming up is everything when it comes to effective advocacy.
According to Merilee Karr, CEO of UnderTheDoormat and Chairperson of the STAA,
__ "Working with other companies across the sector to develop a common position we can advocate for is critical. It is important to speak with a single voice to government at a local and national level to impact change, or indeed to prevent knee-jerk regulation which might severely impact the industry".__
Create compelling stories and tell them in a variety of formats. Good stories are often told and ideally, tap into deep emotional places in our brains that make them unforgettable. That being said, a recipe for a good story should have:
Whether reaching out to social media or the press, narrative stories that are remembered and retold help win over the local community and shape vacation rental policies by policymakers.
Through your advocacy groups, reach out to local policymakers and be ready for appropriate arguments in presenting your thoughts on specific rules and regulations. More importantly, property managers need to be part of conversations, especially at the local and state level.
Getting involved now is more critical as it is far cheaper and more efficient to influence laws and policies rather than responding to lawsuits and remedial policies. Although this won't bring about immediate change, it will get the message across and make it clear to policymakers that you are ready.
Advocacy groups often disband after winning small victories. Do not fall for this trap. Advocacy does not end with the implementation of agreed-upon policies. The future is uncertain, so continue to do your best. Securing vacation rentals is an ongoing task and therefore, do not want to be left behind when regulations change.
Through sales, tourist, hotel, and occupancy taxes, vacation rentals generate millions in tax revenue for cities and states each year. Apart from that, some cities charge a fee that is used for local affordable housing funds.
Vacation rentals give people an opportunity to earn additional income to provide for themselves and importantly their families including those who have a steady income, help pay off rent or mortgage, work part-time, etc.
Vacation rental owners create a welcome book that directs guests to a list of their favorite nearby local shops and restaurants.
Apart from that, some vacation rental owners support and partner with local shops and restaurants which gives small businesses opportunities to introduce new customers relying on this foot traffic for a regular stream throughout the day.
Because vacation rentals are often located outside the tourist hotspot, travelers locate new local shops and restaurants that might not otherwise have found. Though, areas that are less frequently visited will benefit most from this.