Restrictions on Short-Term Rentals in Sisters, OR Could Hurt Local Economy
Sisters Country is a beautiful location in Central Oregon with a wonderland of lakes, mountains and rivers that is a paradise for hikers, fishers, mountain bikers, skiers and horseback riders alike. It is definitely a destination location and tourism is a huge part of the local economy.
But for some reason, the City of Sisters is considering policy changes that could negatively impact its tourism-reliant economy.
Based on recommendations from the City’s Planning Commission, the City Council is considering tightening existing vacation rental regulations and further restricting short-term rentals. These changes would be short-sighted and are especially an overreaction to a modest increase in vacation rental permits and the popularity of online listing services and platforms.
In short, making changes to policy now is a pursuit of solutions to problems that do not currently exist. Additionally, further restrictions could end up infringing on the private property rights of homeowners and result in unintended consequences that could adversely affect the Sisters community, including local businesses.
The Planning Commission has proposed a cap on vacation rentals of 8% of the housing units in residential zones. Currently, vacation rentals account for only about 3.5% of existing residential units, so placing a cap that is more than double the existing rental units is quite premature.
Rather than setting an arbitrary cap number, the city should focus on more closely monitoring permits and issues related to vacation rentals as well as reevaluating codes, how they are enforced and the processes that should be followed.
In other words, if concerns related to vacation rentals have been voiced by the public, the city should determine whether existing measures and processes designed to combat or respond to issues are effective and/or properly enforced.
For example, if excessive noise from a vacation rental is an issue, the City should check to see if its noise and nuisance codes are being enforced. Do the types of “calls for service” to the County Sheriff reflect the concerns being voiced? Are the appropriate authorities being contacted when these instances occur?
If the answer to the above is no, or not appropriately, addressing these areas may be a more logical first step in responding to issues before pursuing a policy change.
The Planning Commission also recommended a total paradigm shift that would tie vacation rental permits to the property owner and not the land. This would mean that if a property is sold, the vacation rental permit would no longer be transferable to the new owner.
This change would have a negative impact to home values for those sellers who have obtained a permit, and many property owners in Sisters consider a vacation rental permit an attractive and marketable benefit to owning the home.
The timing of these potential changes is curious. Some city officials have stated publicly that there are few existing problems related to short-term rentals in Sisters. Instead, they have indicated that their pursuance of change in this instance is to “get ahead of an issue.” But if no issue exists, what are we getting ahead of exactly?
Another argument has been made that restricting short-term rentals would return much-needed affordable housing options to the city’s housing stock.
However, that is a fallacy.
The average value of homes that are currently also used as vacation rentals in Sisters is $371,588. Classifying that average rental property in the city as “affordable” is a tough sell.
The Sisters economy relies heavily on tourism, and as a city with limited lodging options, vacation rentals can provide needed support during peak tourist seasons and major events, such as the Outdoor Quilt Show, Folk Festival and Rodeo.
REALTORS® in Sisters Country report that the ability to periodically rent a home is an important, and increasingly common, criterion for homebuyers in the area.
So, take action today. Contact City Councilors and Planning Commissioners and express your concern about these potential restrictions which could negatively impact the local economy, as well as Sisters’ homeowners and the real estate market in general.