Misinformation Around Vacation Rentals | Guest column

by Linda Bannerman

The county should reject the implementation of vacation rental caps. Such an ordinance would be a breach of the county’s responsibility to make policy legal and fair to all. The ordinance would violate the rights of owners. Based on “federal constitutional grounds,” the Texas Supreme Court concluded, “The ability to rent property is a fundamental privilege of property. Any action limiting this right should never be taken lightly, but to do so without proof of prejudice would be flagrant.

Much misinformation has been spread about affordable housing issues, neighborhood disruption, broad community support for ceilings, environmental degradation, rising house prices and more. But the community has received empirical evidence proving that the claims of these pressing caps are largely unfounded.

Our community proves that capping RVs would have little impact on the affordable housing stock. Either way, few vacation rentals are “affordable”. There are currently affordable units available to renters with a clean rental history. Agencies have matched a number of tenants with units over the past year. The claim of a shortage of long-term rentals has been exaggerated. Seasonal housing for workers is another problem to be solved by finding effective solutions, but it would never be solved by limiting RVs.

Those who complain about noise have repeatedly given the same examples as if it is a common occurrence when the data shows it is not. They also admitted that they were unwilling to use the remedies already in place. Restricting the rights of owners to rent their property to control such complaints is not justified where less restrictive means exist (see https://bit.ly/3D3O0UW).

The Vacation Rental Work Group (VRWG) has distorted the number of locals supporting caps by the thousands using a change.org “petition”, which measures the global popularity of an idea and is not a local or legal petition. During the council’s public comments, an equal number of appellants and letters objected to the capital letters because they supported them. We cannot assume that a group’s voices are representative of the majority.

Rising house prices are a national phenomenon unrelated to RVs. Google’s search for “rising house prices” will offer some analysis on the reasons, but none points to the VR. The claim that the rise of one causes the rise of the other is a classic case of correlation, not causation.

These cap advocates have claimed that RVs use more water. Once again, the facts prove otherwise. When the EWUA Board of Directors announced that its former CEO’s presentation on the use of water in virtual reality at a VRWG meeting was distorted and unauthorized, opponents of VR argued rushed to make the data match their claims. When several of us at this meeting approached the organizers and asked to talk about inaccuracies, we were flatly refused. Those who oppose it don’t want you to hear the truth. “There is no evidence that vacation rentals use excess or inappropriate water,” said Tenar Hall, EWUA board member and mathematician. “We looked at the data extensively and found no evidence that vacation rentals have an adverse effect on our water supply system. “

Our community has been misled. It’s time to pay attention to the data. I urge council not to develop a policy that would interfere with the rights of law-abiding homeowners to their constitutionally protected right to use their property for a modest income. Calls for caps are based on the emotional and misinformed claims of some, not on evidence. The caps are simply not justified by the facts.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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