By Christina Sandefur
In discussing the new movie Little Pink House this morning, I wrote about the Goldwater Institute’s Property Ownership Fairness Act, and how it can protect property owners against unjust seizures of their land or the unfair “regulatory takings” that often deprive people of property without just compensation. But that’s not the only way the Goldwater Institute is working to protect home and business-owners.
In 2012, Glenn Odegard bought a century-old home in historic Jerome, an old Arizona mining town known as “America’s Most Vertical City” due to its steep streets and 5,200-foot elevation. Founded in 1876, Jerome has become a tourist destination with ghost tours, art galleries, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, bars, and shops. Glenn tried to contribute to the town’s success by resuscitating a home that had been abandoned and left vacant for some 60 years. Intending to offer it as a vacation rental, Glenn lovingly restored the dilapidated house to its original historic condition—earning it a feature in Arizona Highways and a spot on the Jerome Historic Home Tour. Yet after approving his project, town officials reversed course and decreed that Glenn could no longer use the home as a vacation rental—threatening him with fines of $300 and up to 90 days in jail for each day he allowed paying guests to stay.
We took the town to court on Glenn’s behalf—but while the case was pending, the legislature enacted a pioneering new law based on our work that makes the Grand Canyon State the most home-sharing-friendly state in the nation today. The Arizona Home-sharing Act bars local governments from imposing blanket bans on home-sharing. Cities can enforce nuisance rules that protect quiet, clean, and safe neighborhoods, but can’t impose one-size-fits-all prohibitions that cause more problems than they solve. With the new law in place, Jerome reversed its ban on vacation rentals.
Tailoring rules to legitimate government public health and safety concerns protects property rights as well as rights that are often incidentally violated or burdened by severe restrictions on home-sharing. And requiring local governments to treat home-sharing the same as other residential occupancies, without regard for the duration of the rental, whether the home is the owner’s primary residence, or what compensation is offered, protects homeowners against unclear rules and arbitrary enforcement.
Unfortunately, in places that lack the Home-Sharing Act, property owners are finding that you can’t really separate property rights from other kinds of rights. In Chicago, for example, where local officials have adopted one of the most aggressive anti-home-sharing laws in the nation, homeowners can have their home searched “at any time for any reason,” and are required to comply with the rules that apply to commercial-grade kitchens (even though they don’t cook for their guests). We and our friends at the Liberty Justice Center are challenging those outrageous rules in a lawsuit right now.
Our Home-Sharing Act was a pathbreaking new law that makes our home state the most hospitable in the nation. But it’s just one part of our package of property rights protections that we’re promoting for states across the nation that want to ensure that home and business owners don’t lose one of the most essential human rights: the right of property ownership. You can learn more about it and about our other work here or in this book I co-authored with Goldwater Institute’s Timothy Sandefur, Cornerstone of Liberty.
P.S. Arizona friends, I hope to see you at tonight’s opening night showing of Little Pink House at Harkins Shea!