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Homeowners and local leaders on opposing sides for short-term rentals legislation

Vacation Rental
Mark Winfrey/EyeMark - Fotolia
Vacation Rental House

Short-term rental bills introduced in the Michigan House and Senate are dividing some northern Michigan residents.

The bills would deregulate vacation rentals, making it possible for units to be rented anywhere in the state.

They have support from legislators who represent tourist destinations—including John Roth, R-Traverse City and Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette.

Rep. Roth says he wanted to co-sponsor the bill because he’s heard from friends and constituents who say they’re being blocked by local communities from taking on vacation rentals.

“I see some places where they say no we don’t want them you’re not going to do it and I think that’s a violation of your property rights,” he says.

Many people rely on renting their second home during summer weekends to help support the costs of maintaining the property. Often they’re driven to it because home prices have become so expensive from more people wanting to live in the area, especially since COVID, area housing experts say.

“If someone’s been working hard all their life in a middle class lifestyle and they finally have enough money to maybe purchase that home up north where they plan to retire,” Roth says. “To say to them you shouldn’t be buying this other home really kind of upset me. I thought that was elitist.”

But some communities say accommodating short-term rentals adds more problems.

Petoskey’s City Planner Amy Tweeten says the entire city council is opposed to the proposed legislation. They’ve been hearing complaints from neighbors annoyed with the constant turnover of guests next door ever since short-term rentals boomed.

She also says they aren’t taxed like hotels, which means communities are missing out on income from commercial business.

In 2014, the city restricted short-term rentals to business districts. Officials were dismayed as rental units that once housed locals were converted to units for visitors.

Yarrow Brown, the executive director of Housing North says there’s no doubt the increase in vacation rentals is exacerbating the region’s housing crisis.

“Every short-term rental that’s created, that’s one less year-round rental in many people’s minds,” she says.

Brown says the region needs to find a balance between making room for visitors who support local economies and maintaining the quality of life and availability of housing for residents.

“We really want to encourage our local units of government to adjust their zoning that would allow maybe for more housing units, such as accessory dwelling units or things that would offset the increase in short-term rentals,” she says.

That’s why, to Brown, it’s important for locals to maintain control.

But short-term rental companies say left in the hands of locals, regulations will be excessive.

Paul Hresko has run a couple of vacation rentals in Elk Rapids for over 25 years, a few one to four bedroom units near the downtown area.

He says local leaders have constricted where short-term rentals are allowed based on fears of drunken partying or other unpleasant disturbances that haven’t happened. Instead, his units provide accommodations for those visiting friends and family, where there aren’t hotels.

“Those in opposition, what I think they fear, they talk about sound,” Hresko says. “Any other type of disruptions, we have ordinances already in place to cover those things.”

He says he’s never heard a complaint about one of his renters, most of whom are families.

“A lot of the people who come – they take the same week year after year,” Hresko says. “They’ve gotten to know people in the community. They’ve befriended people.”

Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.