by Jennifer Tiedemann
Newport, a town on the central Oregon coast, is a favorite spot for tourism in the Pacific Northwest. It’s home to a well-known aquarium, a 19th-century lighthouse, and beautiful beaches. But it may also soon be home to a crackdown on property rights.
The Northwest News Network reports that Newport is considering limiting short-term vacation rentals. In Newport, which has a population of 10,000 with about 200 properties listed as vacation rentals, residents have already had two opportunities to weigh in on short-term rentals in public meetings, but the final decision on whether to allow or limit these rentals will ultimately be in the hands of the Newport City Council. A “citizen advisory committee” has offered up possible approaches that other nearby towns have implemented, including a cap on the number of short-term rentals, a density limit (a limitation on the number of rentals in a specific geographical area, as has been implemented in Pacific Grove, California), and even the establishment of a complaint hotline to allow neighbors to rat out neighbors.
While a “citizen advisory committee” sounds like it would represent the views of citizens, it’s clear that this committee isn’t speaking for all citizens—and it’s never appropriate for a majority (or vocal minority) of homeowners to suppress the rights of others. The limits proposed by the committee would violate the property rights of upstanding Newport landlords, while also doing damage to the local economy. One man who owns a second home in Newport he’d like to start offering as a vacation rental said of the possible crackdown, “If you start to establish yourself as a place that is unfriendly to tourists, it’s a slippery slope…So if you start restricting the number of tourists that can come in, it just doesn’t seem like it’s good for our economy.” Newport embraces its image as a tourist hotspot, but if it becomes more difficult for travelers to stay a couple of nights there, it’s hard to see how the city’s restaurants, shops, and other local businesses that cater to tourists won’t suffer.
Another complaint among short-term rental opponents is that they create neighborhood nuisances. But as another soon-to-be-homeowner in Newport—who wants to make some extra money for retirement through offering his home as a short-term rental—told the Northwest News Network, “There’s already enough rules and regulations on the books. They just need to be enforced.” Indeed, that’s why noise, traffic, and pollution ordinances exist: They protect residents from these problems, without the need for further red tape.
Newport is one of several cities across the country that are either considering short-term rental restrictions or have already enacted them. But the Goldwater Institute is fighting back on behalf of responsible homeowners: This past June, we filed three lawsuits against the cities of Miami Beach, Seattle, and Pacific Grove, California, to defend the property rights of homeowners who offer their residences as short-term rentals. All three cities had moved to limit homeowners’ ability to engage in home-sharing, in a clear violation of their property rights.
Home-sharing is at risk in many places in the United States, as homeowners face sky-high fines, burdensome rules, and even outright bans on their ability to share their homes with overnight guests. Newport is unfortunately just one city of many associated with this growing trend. At Goldwater, we’re working to turn the tide, so that responsible landlords can keep exercising their rights and travelers can continue to have access to cost-effective, unique lodging options.
Jennifer Tiedemann is the communications manager at the Goldwater Institute.