The Joshua Tree Gateway Association of REALTORS is entirely supportive of responsible, well-crafted regulations on short-term rentals that serve to create stronger accountability, oversight and increased security. However, we encourage thoughtful consideration when drafting these regulations and how they will affect local homeowners, residents and property rights of the owners and investors. Our area has experienced an unprecedented influx of buyers in the past few years, even prior to the urban exodus at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which has only added fuel to an already incredibly high market. While our area has been inundated with STVRs, the perhaps inconvenient truth is that the current moratorium on new STVRs does nothing to alleviate the issue of the shortage of long-term rentals, nor does it address the operation of unpermitted and unregulated short-term rentals, which constitutes a far larger frustration for those with interest in the STVR issue as a whole. By removing the ability to apply for STVR permits, too long of a moratorium would only encourage the operation of unpermitted ones and thereby undermine the process of enforcing new regulations, once moratorium ostensibly lifts. A continued moratorium is not an effective way to address any of these issues.
Regulations written to protect residents living close to STVR properties and increased penalties on violators would be a welcome change, but increased enforcement and inspection would go a long way toward ensuring compliance with ordinances and standards. Our area has enjoyed quite a boost to our local economy with the increased tourism interest, putting a hold on new permits entirely as a stopgap measure while new regulations are crafted could eventually create a burden on the many residents who have come to rely on the operation of STVRs as their primary source of income, especially with the implication that the moratorium could be easily extended. Some of this increased income to the town could certainly help fund increased code enforcement who could add certain aspects of STVR patrol and ticketing to their list of areas of focus. We would like to see our local government place pressure on the STVR rental websites that are responsible for the booking for these properties as a more responsible regulating body that verifies properties are permitted and adhering to local law. Truly, identifying the actual issues that have arisen from the increase in STVR properties should be given a serious study, perhaps by a third party company, who can pick out true issues from the pile of disenfranchised and those simply resistant to growth. Indeed, if our local Housing Element had provided for more nuanced zoning that encouraged development of hotels that could offer some of the amenities that currently only STVRs can provide to visitors to our area, new hotels could help alleviate the issue of the overwhelming need for tourist housing.
We strongly would oppose the moratorium being extended any further than the already approved 45 days, even if new regulations are not yet finished and approved. New regulations and policy can easily be implemented while they continue to operate lawfully. We would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the discussion on new regulations and stepped-up enforcement and inspection of properties, as well as increased fines and scrutiny for unpermitted properties, as it stands to deeply affect the homeowners of this community and the long-term sustainability of the local real estate market.