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LETTER: Vacation rentals in the R-1 zone

| May 14, 2024 1:03 PM

Dear Editor,

Vacation rentals in the R-1 single-family zone are parasites. They lower property values of adjacent homes, infringe on multiple neighbors’ rights to peacefully enjoy their homes, are vacant months at a time, and use limited residential parking and other infrastructure for commercial purposes — infrastructure paid for by neighborhoods. They are a source of friction and hard feelings. There is no value added living near a vacation rental. 

The city in 2015 gifted to speculators a commercial business model in a residential zone that allows them to pay more for homes than persons who want to buy it as a single-family residence — the purpose for which it was built. Once the vacation rental is established, the value and quality of life of adjacent homes is diminished. The neighbors have no recourse. They are notified after the fact. 

Vacation rental owners are by definition inconsiderate people because the rest us wouldn’t (can’t) do that to our neighbors. Vacation rentals are commercial operations with special protections in the R-1 that compete with legitimate businesses providing similar services in commercial zones. They don’t, for instance, have to install sprinkler systems like hotels even though multiple families use them at one time. 

A volunteer on Edgewater has contacted more than 30 homeowners, and can’t find anyone who wants to live next to a vacation rental. (The vacation rental owners weren’t asked.) Armed with the list of licensed short-term rentals provided by the city, residents have contacted unlicensed vacation rentals in Moses Lake. It is clear unlicensed vacation rentals are being advertised, and the city does not know how many of them are operating in the R-1. 

Moses Lake has an urgent need for housing. City policy encourages vacation rentals in the R-1, removes homes from the inventory needed by families moving to Moses Lake who are seeking single-family homes. Every time the city issues a permit for a vacation rental, it makes the shortage worse and makes homes in all categories less affordable. 

U.S. cities are starting to ban short term rentals in the city limits because they make the housing crisis worse and because they ruin the character of established residential neighborhoods. 

Before 2015, the code said: No home in the R-1 shall be leased for less than 30 days. The city council added six pages of new rules and definitions to gift to speculators a commercial use in the R-1 that provides more protection for commercial use than for the people who live there. 

Moses Lake’s R-1 neighborhoods are the target of LLCs buying lakefront homes as businesses. People dread the day their lakefront neighbor decides it is time to sell. If speculators buy the home, neighbors wait to be notified they have lost their right to enjoy peaceful occupancy of their homes, and there is nothing they can do about it. That is what capitulation to commercial interests has done to the mindset of our residential neighborhoods near lakefront. 

We have vacation rentals in our R-1 neighborhoods because of the self-serving efforts of Realtors and their associates who pushed this through in 2015. The people living in the affected neighborhoods were never asked. Now a growing number are making their opinions known. 

Owners of homes in the R-1 should have three options: live in the home, rent the home to a single family, or sell it. Owners of vacation rentals should not have more rights and protections than everyone else in the R-1 zone, at the expense of the rights of everyone else living in R-1, nor should they be given city-sponsored advantages over their competition. At this point in Moses Lake’s development, they should be banned. Strict enforcement is justified to address the housing shortage and affordability and to protect the character of our residential neighborhoods.

Sincerely, 

Doug Sly

Moses Lake