Culver Weighs Regulations on Short-Term Rentals
New study suggests brief rentals hurt neighborhoods, cause problems and worsen affordable-housing crisis
September 20, 2018
Culver City officials and local residents were gathering at press time this week to begin formulating a plan to regulate short- term vacation rentals in Culver, fresh on the heels of a study by a consumer watchdog group's warning that allowing more of them through fast-growing companies such as Airbnb and HomeAway could exacerbate the community's already chronic shortage of affordable housing.
Airbnb WATCH, the consumer group that also promotes affordable housing, released a report last week that said lax regulations in the nearby City of Los Angeles have allowed about 28,000 residential units to be rented to short-term tenants.
It effectively removed an equal number of homes that could be rented to full-time tenants or sold to families needing affordable housing.
That number could rise to about 33,000 by 2020 if the L.A. City Council doesn't approve a recent proposal to crack-down on such programs as Airbnb and HomeAway, both of which facilitate deals between short-term renters and property owners, the report said.
Rental investors and a growing number of Culver homeowners are temporarily renting their property out for a night or two, or even several weeks, at rates near or even more than local hotels would charge.
By doing so, they can sometimes make more money in a week or two than they would by collecting monthly rent from a full-time tenant who wants someplace to live.
Individual homeowners, meantime, can make some extra cash by renting a spare bedroom for a few nights or their entire house while they're away for a long vacation.
As these units no longer become available to permanent tenants, though, full-time renters and moderate-income buyers must pay more for the dwindling number of apartments and houses.
Opponents of these short-term rentals have a long-list of complaints. They say that some of these "temporary tenants" throw loud parties, trash their neighborhoods, clog their streets with traffic and steal their parking spots.
They also say that companies like Airbnb and HomeAway don't thoroughly "vet" their users, and that some homeowners who rent their homes out to short-term tenants don't first check the visitor's background at all.
While Culver residents understandably have a "lifestyle" interest in the short-term rental issue, Culver City officials have a financial one.
Culver collects millions of dollars each year through its "transient occupancy tax," a daily tax levied on visitors who stay at the City's hotels and motels.
Problem is, many single-family homeowners and even some landlords who are renting their bedrooms or apartments out to strangers aren't licensed or paying the occupancy tax. That means that the City is losing out on a lot of tax money each year.
According to the City's website (www.culvercity.org), since the Council last discussed short-term rentals at its meeting in June, City staff has been working to secure a voluntary collection agreement (VCA) with Airbnb.
The VCA would simplify the process of collecting transient taxes from short-term rental bookings, which would add to City revenues that could be used for public safety, parks, recreation and community services.
The Observer will have complete coverage of the City's Sept. 20 meeting with local residents about the issues surrounding short-term rentals in the next issue.