Supervisors create rules for hosted rentals

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a framework of rules for people who offer rooms in their homes to short-term rentals.

The ordinance creates a new category of visitor accommodations called “hosted rentals,” defined as the short-term rental of a single room while the owner is present. It was created for people using websites such as Airbnb.

The ordinance places a limit of 250 on the number of permits available for hosted rentals. Those who already offer the service will be guaranteed a permit.

The permits will cost about $300, and will be good for five years.

Homes offering the service will be limited to one parking spot. In addition, hosted rental homes are limited to two rooms.

Renters can offer the service, although the property owners must obtain the necessary permit.

Homeowners must also pay the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax, which also applies to hotels and vacation rentals. The county has raked in about $1.5 million in tax revenue from both hosted and vacation rentals.

Under the ordinance, 20 percent of the tax paid will be placed in the county’s affordable housing fund.

The decision came as a relief for the people who open their homes to Airbnb visitors. About 60 lined up to address the supervisors for more than two hours with their concerns.

Most said that they bring temporary guests into their homes to help supplement their income. They also argued that offering their rooms for long-term rentals would be either impractical or impossible.

The supervisors were originally looking to cap the number of days at 55 per year for the coastal Live Oak, Pleasure Point and Davenport areas, and 110 in the rest of the unincorporated parts of the county.

“We oppose a cap,” said Ray Reinhard of La Selva Beach.

Reinhard said that he has hosted guests from 34 different countries and 30 states in the two years he has been offering a hosted rental. In that time, he said the room in his home has been full for a total of 440 nights.

Darren Davison said he and his wife open a room in their home in the Soquel hills to supplement their income. He said offering the room for a long-term rental would require adding a kitchen, a financial impossibility.

Davison rejected assertions by county staff that hosted rentals take up what might otherwise be long-term rentals.

“They have decided that we are scapegoats for housing affordability,” he said. “Vacation rentals take homes off the market, not hosted rentals.”

Ian Crueldad, government affairs director for Santa Cruz Association of Realtors, agreed.

Crueldad said that placing harsh restrictions on people who offer short-term rentals would force many out of their homes.

“…Even if strict regulations are passed, people will still have a hard time affording a home in Santa Cruz County, as there is no data that proves the amount of short term rental affects the housing stock,” he said.

The ordinance will go the Santa Cruz County Planning Commission on Jan. 10, and return to the supervisors Jan. 23.

The California Coastal Commission must then give its stamp of approval.

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