Where’s The Fire?
Beginning in May of 2021, the City of Fredericksburg hosted four community meetings concerning Short Term Rentals in Fredericksburg. They were attended by citizens and owners and operators of short-term rentals, many of whom, like me, are citizens of Fredericksburg. The city staff presented information that painted a picture of a sharp increase in short term rentals in the city since 2018.
According to a company hired in 2018 by the City of Fredericksburg, STR Helper, there were over 700 operational STR’s in Fredericksburg at that time. The claim that there has been a rise in STR’s since 2018 has since been disproven, because, until 2018, permits were not required. Once the city began requiring STR’s to operate with a city approved permit, the requests for permits took a sharp rise, as already operating owners were trying to come into compliance. As recently as last week, the city reported that there were 255 requests for permits in July. This can be confusing, however, as a large portion of these 255 requests could simply be contract renewals that happened to expire in July.
It is hard to say what the actual numbers are, since it has been reported by the city that there are anywhere from 500-800 short term rentals at different times. The most recent report from the city, dated June 30, 2021, stated there are 522 short term rentals. Based on the city’s own numbers, short term rentals are not at a sharp increase.
The city has recently begun to collect data on code violations and complaints regarding short term rentals as well after the four public meetings, since they were not able to provide any data when asked by the citizens regarding past complaints or violations. In the past two months, the city has collected data on all code violations reported to the city. Less than ten percent of the violations reported came from short term rentals. The other ninety percent were from citizens.
The city is considering some very significant changes to codes and the property rights of all homeowners in an attempt to mitigate the problems of complaints, violations, and the number of STR’s. I urge the city council and city staff to look at the actual documented violations numbers when making decisions that will affect all homeowners, not just those who own short term rentals.
If changes are required, then we should consider looking at the data before making dramatic decisions to existing property rights. According to the city’s own numbers, there has not been a sharp increase in the number or STR’s, nor in the number of violations or complaints. So, I would ask the City of Fredericksburg, where is the fire?