The Colorado Springs City Council seems to be deciding against small- and micro-business opportunities by supporting regulations for short-term rental rooms, apartments and homes inside city limits.
Next week, council will vote on an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals in the city — and limit the earning potential for property owners.
Under consideration at its Monday meeting: limiting the number of short-term rentals a property owner can operate and setting conditions for permits for every short-term rental in the city limits (including suspension or revocation).
Despite spending months on the issue, and drafting several iterations of the ordinance currently before council, the proposed law is too vague. It doesn’t say how many short-term rentals the city can have but it does require a property manager to respond to emergencies within an hour. It doesn’t define what constitutes an emergency, so renters could claim almost anything and expect an immediate response. It doesn’t really specify how permits are suspended or revoked, just that they might be for ordinance violations.
It’s too punitive. The city can revoke permits for noise violations or if the renters aren’t obeying the fire code.
What happened to free markets and free enterprise? Why does it seem like every problem requires a government solution and every solution requires more regulation?
Colorado Springs isn’t one of the cities struggling with too many short-term rentals, which make up about 0.5 percent of overall housing in the city. But it is a city where wages have failed to keep up with statewide averages, and people are trying innovative side hustles to make up the shortfall.
Consider the short-term rental owner in Colorado Springs: 63 percent are female, 9 percent are teachers and 52 percent live in low- to moderate-income households. About 48 percent of hosts use the income for normal household expenses.
It’s a decision that favors large hotel chains at the expense of small business owners, women, students and people just trying to make ends meet.
And many of those opposed to short-term rentals make the wrong arguments. It’s not about affordable housing — with so few short-term rentals in Colorado Springs, turning them all into affordable housing wouldn’t make a dent in the issue.
Another argument: Airbnb property owners and Vacation Rental By Owner units aren’t good for the economy. And that’s untrue. Research in San Diego showed that vacationers staying in short-term vacation rentals spent $86.4 million on tourist activities. The total economic impact in the city equals $285 million.
The San Diego study found that short-term rentals are supporting 1,842 tourism jobs and studies in Idaho found a direct correlation between short-term rentals and job creation.
What’s the impact in a smaller city like Colorado Springs? We don’t know because the city opted not to study the issue fully — but with an economy that depends on tourism, it would seem those 1,500 rooms, apartments and homes are boosting the economic base both for their owners and for jobs in the tourism sector.
We understand that Airbnbs and VRBOs are major disrupters for hotel chains and bed-and-breakfasts. We know that neighbors are worried about the loss of local identity and disruptive guests. There are ways to deal with those issues that don’t involve still more government regulations. Let’s find innovative ways to address real issues while not affecting the jobs — and subsequent incomes — that come with short-term rentals.