Housing Action Team pushes to cap investment vacation rentals – Fort Bragg Advocate-News
FORT BRAGG, CA — An organization called the Mendocino Coast Housing Action Team colloquially called HAT has developed a proposed ordinance for the County that will reduce investment vacation rentals to two percent of housing stock on the coast. According to data provided by HAT, the County has approximately 500 legal vacation rentals. Ninety percent are in the coastal areas and that represents about four percent of the residential housing on the north and south coasts combined.
The ordinance is designed to curtail investment vacation rentals and does not apply to homeowners who live on sight and have legal short-term rentals for supplemental income. Also, it does not apply to residents who rent a room. An investment vacation rental is any vacation rental that is not the primary residence of the owner. That could mean second homes or properties purchased for the sole purpose of running a short-term rental.
HAT is not proposing an immediate cutback. They are proposing that permits expire as current investment rentals are sold. No additional permits will be issued until the 2% cap is reached. This protects existing investors but prevents new vacation rentals or property transfers from one investor to another. The hope is that over time some of the homes that are currently rented out will be returned to housing stock for locals.
Supervisor Dan Gjerde sits on an ad hoc committee with Supervisor Ted Williams that focuses on the housing crisis in the coastal areas of Mendocino County. Gjerde says that he supports presenting the HAT recommendations to the entire Board for review and comment before moving forward with an ordinance. Gjerde sees it as a way to stop the bleeding. He believes vacation rentals inflate housing costs along the coast and that many properties are marketed as vacation rentals to sell to investors.
Travis Scott, executive director of the Mendocino County Tourism Commission said, “MCTC has reviewed the ordinance proposal and they are not taking a position on the matter.
The Coastal Mendocino Association of Realtors opposes the ordinance according to President Birdie Wilson-Holmes. The realtors board sent an email to all members and the response was unified in opposition. They met on Thursday, May 19th, and unanimously voted that they oppose a moratorium on vacation rentals without further analysis and amendment to protect property rights. Wilson-Holmes personally believes there is a general consensus among local realtors like herself that this is not the path to more affordable housing. Wilson-Homes supports the addition of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The ADU ordinances were adopted in 2019.
HAT helped get the word out in 2019 about changes to County ordinances that simplified the permitting process for ADUs. According to HAT Coordinator Elizabeth Swenson, they had many inquiries but the cost of adding a second unit is prohibitive in many cases.
In January, HAT released a survey of employers and employees on the North Coast about housing and its impacts on the workforce. Of the 72 employer responses, nearly 100% of respondents favored securing grants and changing policies and zoning to create more workforce housing. Eighty-seven percent felt workforce housing should be local government’s top priority or one of their top 3 areas of focus. At a meeting sponsored by Coast Democrats to discuss hospital and health care issues in February, lack of housing was brought up as a concern for filling empty positions at the hospital, clinics, and other health providers.
According to Swenson, HAT is also advocating for allowing tiny homes on wheels countywide to increase housing. She said that when the State recently changed the rules, HAT contacted the City of Fort Bragg, which has since authorized them. Tiny homes on wheels have not been approved countywide. Supervisor Dan Gjerde says that he would want to ensure that neighbors are protected from noise and other factors before considering a change that allows Tiny Homes on wheels in the County.