Beach Drive short term rental properties under direct fire (opinion)

Representation of known short term rental units in Seattle

More like a scattered shot gun approach if you ask me. The Seattle Mayor & esteemed Council members are set to propose strict regs on ALL short term (under 30 days) rental properties in the entire city. That of course includes all of West Seattle and the handful of units on Beach Drive which yours truly just went live with in May. 

The purpose and intention of the proposed legislation is to discourage homeowners with non-owner occupied properties to choose housing out of town tourists over more permanent long term renters. If it all goes as planned, the Council predicts there will be 300 new long term rental units on the market.  They stop short on claiming they’ll be “affordable” but that’s what they really want, and frankly should want.

Councilmember Tim Burgess that chairs Affordable Housing prides himself on using “smart policies and evidence-based solutions”. Really?

From personal experience, the few guests we have hosted so far have either had family living in West Seattle, were referred by neighbors that don’t have enough space for out of town relatives, a family from Minnesota that drove up from Portland to hang out and see a Twins game at Safeco Field, and a local West Seattle resident celebrating a landmark birthday with her out of area friends as a stay-cation. What they all had in common is…

  • They did not want to rent a hotel downtown and fight traffic and parking.
  • They did not want to stay in the basement of someone’s primary residence.
  • They all wanted a private waterfront home all to themselves which is not available anywhere commercially in the city.
  • They all spent a majority of time & money hanging out in West Seattle.

Other than required licensing, the Council is not going to hinder homeowners that are using their primary residence for housing STR guests. The idea is that this segment of the market is merely trying to make ends meet and subjecting them to the proposed regs wouldn’t result in additional permanent units anyhow. Well, the only 2 homeowners I know around here using their primary residence as a STR have entire apartment units on their lower floor and choose short term rather than permanent renters. Not trying to pull them into the crab boil as well but it probably won’t be long before the City sics their proposed staff of STR inspector goons on them as well!

Now we need to make a decision what to do with our house next door if the legislation passes through as proposed. Rent it out on a permanent basis? No, we also like the flexibility of using it for ourselves, family & friends. Sell it? Maybe some years down the road. Bottom line is that the City of Seattle will miss out on any further taxes & licensing fees we generate and West Seattle establishments will lose some year around tourism dollars. It’s just too much work & expense to run a STR like ours for the proposed limit of 90 days a year when the break even point is more like around 160 days.

 

WShotel

West Seattle’s one and only hotel/motel

I’m not saying a problem doesn’t exist in other parts of the city. All of Burgess’s example’s of why short term rentals are cheating permanent locals from finding affordable housing border downtown Seattle. He claims extreme abuses of entire apartment/condo floors being held out for STR to tourists. We’ve recently learned that “entrepreneurs” are actually renting out permanent apartment space and then jacking the rent to STR guests all with 100% approval of the building’s management team (also receiving a cut, of course). I also wouldn’t be surprised if abuses are taking place with the recent high density rezoning and micro housing attended for gram & gramps or permanent local renters.

Seems to me that the Council and Mayor should be targeting those abuses rather than ma & pa on Beach Drive.

 

Scupper, reporting/ranting for Beach Drive Blog

About Scupper

Comments

  1. I know that it’s really difficult to find decent rentals in West Seattle for folks who want to live out here but can’t afford to buy. Now I know why. I had no idea there were this many on the short term rental sites. I guess it benefits those who have the means to buy properties, not so much for those who rent and hold down jobs like working in your schools.

    • Scupper says:

      DJL, Can’t argue with you about high real estate prices in West Seattle or for that matter, any region around Puget Sound. 80% of the dots you see on the map represent people’s primary residence that are using short term rentals to augment their incomes. In other words, they will not be affected by the proposed legislation, nor would they be likely to list their house on the market if it did impose on them. Another 10% of the dots represent 2nd home/vacation homes owned by “those who have the means”. That leaves 10% (probably much less in West Seattle) that are working STR’s as a profession. I have no issue with regulating the 10% that work the system but still believe it’s not even on the map for making Seattle less affordable. All this is going to do is drive the business under ground rather than create new revenue for schools, transportation, etc.

  2. Considering how much it costs to own a condo, it should be up to the owner to rent it out for whatever they wish.

    • Scupper says:

      Thanks for commenting John,
      It’s pricey to be sure and a far cry from apartment complex managers doling out multiple units to short term sublet experts that jack the rent to accommodate budget minded vacationers and then split the profits back with the property managers. I guess I’m just having a tough time keeping my mouth shut & accepting being part of collateral damage for the greater good…

  3. This is just another example of our mayor and city council, socialists one and all, creating new legislation to further their agenda. Dictating how private citizens and small businesses are allowed to operate. The continuing trend of regulating and penalizing enterpanuers seems to be the norm in this city. Very sad.

    TLP

    • Scupper says:

      TLP.
      From what I’m learning, there are gross abuses going on closer to downtown. Some companies are essentially specializing in “flipping rents” all with full cooperation of the property manager/investors that take a cut. Not sure if the buildings are located in the re-zones that allowed increased density intended for long term rentals but I wouldn’t be at all surprised. I just wish the Mayor & Council would take a more responsible approach in dealing with the side effects of high-end paying companies moving here. Watch them around re-election taking total credit for the growth and avoiding any of the negative impacts! This short term rental issue would be much better regulated by a speargun approach rather than a citywide drift net. These new regs are happening in most other growing cities so I’m afraid it’s another monkey see, monkey do approach by our city. It is sad.

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