Inside208

Short-Term Rental Legislation Reintroduced – Action Needed

Posted on April 29, 2021 by Dene Westbrook

House Bill 4722 was introduced this week seeking to eliminate a municipality’s ability to regulate short-term vacation rentals. Unfortunately, this bill mirrors several past pieces of legislation and does not include any compromises we’ve worked on the past several years. The League has engaged in multiple stakeholder meetings on this issue seeking to find a reasonable resolution, but compromise requires both sides at the table to be engaged and willing to give and take, and that hasn’t happened.

House Bill 4722 mandates all short-term rentals are a by-right residential use of property, permitted in all residential zones. They can’t be subject to a special use or conditional use permit, or any procedure different from those required for other dwellings in the same zone. This bill would eliminate the ability to inspect short-term rentals unless you are inspecting all dwellings in that zone, including owner-occupied.

The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act already lays out the process for municipalities to draft regulations driven by public input through an open process. House Bill 4722 undermines that process and removes the voice of local citizens, rendering locally elected officials powerless to respond and act.

Supporters argue this is a property rights issue, but they don’t include all property owners in that argument. Just those who own residential homes for the purpose of using them as vacation rentals to generate revenue…a commercial purpose, not a residential one. And, for individuals who want to rent out their second home a few times a year to cover property taxes and upkeep, there are examples of municipal regulations across the state allowing that. Are the ordinances all uniform, saying the same thing? No, but our communities are not cookie cutter places. They have different residential and business needs, different demands on services, etc. A one size, fits all solution does not work for this issue! If it did, Traverse City, Frankenmuth, South Haven, Marquette…insert the names your favorite places to visit here…would all look and feel the same.

The zoning preemption put in place by HB 4722 would also exacerbate Michigan’s housing crisis. It further limits the accessibility and affordability of homes thus negatively impacting community growth as well as economic and job growth across our state. Again, this issue is different depending on the community you’re in and requires local context and solutions, not a one size fits all mandate.

The League believes local government is best positioned to know the unique needs of their community when discussing zoning issues. The elected decision makers closest to the people are the most appropriate to determine if something needs to be acted upon to maintain the delicate balance between residential and commercial uses, between residents and investment property owners, and to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents, renters and vacation visitors.

Even if short-term vacation rentals are not an issue in your community, you should be very concerned about the impact of preempting local zoning efforts. If enacted, this legislation would set a dangerous precedent undermining decision-making at the local level. It will also set the stage for further attacks on local zoning (occupancy limits, further use exemptions…). This legislation could also impact your local rental inspection program, as a landlord could easily amend leases to be less than 30 consecutive days, and by definition, would be a short-term rental that couldn’t be inspected unless you’re inspecting all dwellings including owner-occupied in that zone.

We urge you to contact your legislators, and the House Commerce & Tourism committee (where the bill has been referred) to voice your opposition to this attack on local democracy.

The League will continue to adamantly oppose this legislation as introduced, but remains committed to being at the table to find a reasonable resolution preserving local zoning and balancing property rights.

UPDATE – Representative Samantha Steckloff is included as a cosponsor of this legislation, but she has reached out to the League to indicate it was done in error and she does not support HB 4722.

 

Jennifer Rigterink is a legislative associate for the League handling economic development, land use and municipal services issues.  She can be reached at jrigterink@mml.org or 517-908-0305.

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