Given a historic shortage of affordable housing, the Board of Supervisors today asked County departments to assess the impact that short-term rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO can have on affordable residential rental housing in the County’s unincorporated areas, home to 10% of County residents.

The use of companies such as Airbnb and VRBO, which connect owners to travelers for short-term rentals, removes otherwise affordable rental apartments from the market for long-term occupancy. Recent studies by LA Alliance for a New Economy found that the use of short-term rentals can cause landlords to take rental units off the market, a move that dramatically impacts rents and rental vacancy rates. A 2015 study found that 7,316 units were taken off the rental market by the use of Airbnb, the equivalent of seven years of affordable housing construction.

Short term rentals can also cause other community problems including destabilizing neighborhoods and affect quality of life due to increased traffic, crowded parking, noise and safety concerns. Additionally, short-term rentals are not subject to the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) paid by hotels. An appropriate TOT on short-term rentals could result in several million dollars in revenue for the County each year.

“Right now, we need to do everything within our power to ensure that we expand, not decrease, available affordable housing,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion. “We do not want to ban short-term rentals, but we want to ensure that short-term rentals do not have a negative impact on our very important work to reduce homelessness and our efforts to reduce the number of low and moderate-income people who are being priced out of our local rental market.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger, a co-author of the motion, added, “The short-term rental market operates mostly outside the county’s regulation. We want to be sure we have the necessary tools to oversee the lawful operation of this type of lodging, and this motion is a first step to understanding the current state of that market.”

This motion comes on the heels of recent County efforts to expand affordable housing, including passage of four ordinances last week, and increased investment in affordable housing construction of more than $100 million this fiscal year.