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Better without Airbnb

Morro Bay's housing market is adversely affected by short-term rentals

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My wife and I have used Airbnb quite a bit over the years, both as hosts and as travelers. We know the benefits of the original idea:

1. Hosts can make some extra money by renting out part of their property, like a bedroom or mother-in-law's quarters, etc.

2. Travelers can stay in real neighborhoods, meet locals, and generally experience an improved travel experience versus the average motel/hotel.

But, over the years, Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms have become monsters. Airbnb was never meant to be what it has become, which is a system used to a large extent by absentee owners who perhaps own several (or dozens) of properties, turn entire neighborhoods and tourist towns into vast pseudo hotels, and ruin their character and affordability.

Mr. Juren ("Share Morro Bay," Nov. 12), whose company profits from absentee Airbnb properties, makes it sound like travelers would lack access to California's coast if it weren't for Airbnb, and that somehow Airbnb serves the public good—which is so misguided it's nauseating. There is a lack of coastal access? Morro Bay is full of motels/hotels.

While having untold dozens and hundreds of short-term visitors to a given neighborhood every year can have numerous negative affects, to me perhaps the worst effect Airbnb has on communities is the strong upward price pressures put on rents and sales prices.

As far as rents go, rents skyrocket as a typical property owner can see large increases in income by converting their long-term rental to short-term rentals. Did anyone else notice in March/April of 2020 at the start of COVID-19, that suddenly many relatively affordable rental properties popped up on Craigslist? That was a glimpse of the real Morro Bay. It happened because Airbnb hosts switched to long-term renting as tourism dropped.

As far as sales go, when properties are placed on the market, buyers can afford to pay much higher prices as the potential short-term rental income typically pays the entire mortgage and more. And when it's time to sell, buyers can then also ask much higher prices.

Many prospective Morro Bay residents, folks whose work is essential to our community, either can't afford to buy or rent here, or if they can, they need to work two to three jobs to make it happen. And even then, it's for a residence the size of a closet.

Short-term-rental advocates who deny these community affordability issues are simply putting their heads in the sand. These are quite basic market forces at play, seen worldwide and repeatedly throughout the short-term rental system, and are undeniable.

Nothing I'm saying here is new, but it really irks me that the commercial property interests (the absentee property owners who own several properties as well as their management companies), who profit from the destruction of our communities, have the nerve to make it sound like Airbnb is a benefit to the community. That's like saying a certain amount of property fires should be encouraged because the extra fires would provide jobs for fireman and homebuilders.

And property rights? Neighborhoods are zoned residential. If a person wants to exercise their so-called "property right" of short-term absentee-renting, they need to buy a property in a part of town zoned accordingly.

"Hosted" short-term rentals, and/or greatly restricted rentals (like one or two per month) would solve almost all the problems with short-term rentals all at once and immediately, but, with encouragement from the understandably(?) biased commercial Airbnb interests, the city decided that hosted rentals are not needed. How utterly sad.

Look, this is a very tough situation and without easy answers. I applaud all those who work so hard on solving this issue, but I believe we would all, generally speaking, be better off without any short-term, absentee, residential rentals. Δ

Bill Salopek writes from Morro Bay. Share your thoughts in a letter to the editor emailed to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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