“We can’t believe Tahoe banned vacation rentals,” said nearly every friend of mine while attending a Christmas party in San Francisco this past holiday season. The news has spread like wildfire and many are left with misleading or false information. So, what exactly does Measure T mean for vacation rentals and the real estate market in Tahoe? In my opinion, South Lake Tahoe will see a decrease in property values, declined interest for visitors coming up with their families, and ultimately, a hit on the local economy. What does this mean for North Lake Tahoe? I expect an influx of South Lake Tahoe visitors to begin the migration to Tahoe’s more relaxed north shores.
I grew up in the Bay Area and like many others, we came to Tahoe as often as we could afford. Flash forward 29 years later and the narrative still holds true: Tahoe is a family destination.
Given that most hotels in Nevada allow gambling and smoking inside, the allure of renting a home has become increasingly more popular. Visitors love the idea of having an entire home where they congregate by the fire, cook dinner together, and share their special moments.
Although Measure T is not a ban on vacation rentals entirely, it will undoubtedly alter the landscape of South Lake Tahoe. Measure T, according to votersedge.org, eliminates VHRs in residential zones by 2021, allows VHR operations in commercial zones and tourist core areas, establishes VHR occupancy limitations, and increases minimum fines for VHR-related violations.
Let’s dive in to how this measure ended up on the ballot in the first place.
Local homeowners, known as Tahoe Neighborhoods Group, banded together to create the grassroots effort that ultimately brought this to the polls. And by a whopping 58 votes, Measure T passed.
Similar to most things in life, there are two sides to every story.
Proponents of Measure T make the argument that neighborhoods are for just that, neighbors, and not for commercial investors. Many believe vacation rentals are responsible for changing the landscape in the greater Lake Tahoe area, namely in the department of available housing stock for full-time residents. In addition to this, many residents claim that visitors are too loud, leave their trash outside (inadvertently inviting bears to the party), and park wherever they please.
Opponents of Measure T have taken the position that it will hurt the economy and that the city is overstepping into the jurisdiction of property owners’ rights. The South Lake Tahoe Property Owners Group filed a lawsuit citing Measure T is “unconstitutional and unenforceable.” For now, a judge has placed a restraining order on any occupancy limits, which the city council has directed to stay in place while allowing the rest measure to remain.
Many South Lake Tahoe property owners purchased with the intent to rent it out, meaning they rely on rental income to cover their mortgage, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and general home maintenance.
This is a familiar conversation: While many place the blame on Airbnb, what those people fail to realize is that a good majority of second home owners are buying their second home (not investment property) in Tahoe to enjoy with their loved ones. If these property owners were to rent the home to a full-time tenant, they would not have the ability to use it. Therefore, the argument that this measure would create more affordable housing for locals, in my opinion, doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on.
When many think of Tahoe, they think of being outdoors, enjoying nature, and slowing down, if only for a moment. When many think of South Lake Tahoe, they think of casinos, gambling, and loud partying. When you start to force tourists to stay in the commercial zone, many are stripped of the vacation they so desired.
This particular scenario tends to make me feel a bit helpless, as I’m sure it does you. So, what can we, as residents, do to ensure our voices are heard? We can start by speaking up. Write a letter to your local government, join the conversation, and make your voice heard.
~ Amie Quirarte is a full-time North Lake Tahoe resident practicing real estate in both California and Nevada. Amie strongly believes the rights of a property owner and creating a sustainable rental market can coexist harmoniously.