SALEM — The legislative clock is running out on a bill that would overrule local limits on short-term rentals opposed by Bend and other communities.
Senate Bill 621 would allow any home to be used as a short-term rental as long as the owners register with local government and pay any lodging tax. That would include rentals through websites such as Airbnb and VRBO.
Bend and several cities on the Oregon Coast actively oppose the bill, saying it would undermine local solutions to the boom in vacation-oriented rentals. The bill remains on hold in the Senate Committee on Business and General Government.
“I’m not under the impression that SB 621 will move,” Erik Kancler, lobbyist for the city of Bend, said Tuesday, “although it never pays to take anything for granted in politics.”
The bill was introduced by the panel’s vice-chair, Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton.
The committee held a public hearing on the bill March 5, but has not scheduled a work session — where the bill can be amended and voted on. Under the Legislature’s calendar, any policy bill that does not have a work session scheduled by March 29 automatically dies.
Kancler said the bill would wipe out a 2015 effort that resulted from six months of meetings by a special task force, followed by approvals from Bend’s planning commission and City Council.
“It would prevent us from implementing a very carefully negotiated and highly effective local solution to managing short-term rentals and balancing tourism with other community needs,” Kancler said.
Girod has argued that the statewide policy is needed to fix a patchwork of local laws — and areas where there is no vacation rental law at all.
“This bill is a turf battle that has been going on for a long time,” Girod said earlier this month.
“It involves two heavy hitters. It pits property owners against cities.”
Girod said homeowners should be allowed to make extra money from their properties. The bill would also add rentals to cities and counties that could be used not only by travelers, but by those with short-term contract jobs or in the midst of a move.
“Any way that an owner can make a few dollars to offset the cost is beneficial,” Girod said.
Kancler, the Bend lobbyist, testified March 5 that short-term rentals were a growing issue in the community since about 2011.
“Some of the neighborhoods were basically going through wholesale changes from what they had been since their inception to ultimately full blocks of primarily short-term vacation units,” Kancler said. “This was a very radical change in character.”
In late 2014, Bend created a 23-person task force representing diverse interests that led to a consensus on the ordinance.
“We feel this locally led, locally driven collaborative process has really helped balance our community and eased tensions that have come with growing tourism,” Kancler said.
Among those testifying in favor of the bill was Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford. He noted that the Legislature had chosen a statewide solution in passing SB 608, which mandates statewide rent control.
“We must make sure we do not stifle the development of these vacation rentals, especially along the Coast, which is an economic driver to our coastal communities,” Brock Smith said. “We’ve been driven towards a tourism-driven economy, and we need all the benefits and tools in the toolbox to do so.”
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