Airbnb, a growing topic of discussion across the country, recently came to the attention of the Lake Bluff governing body when an E. Scranton Ave resident circulated a petition with flier requesting immediate cease of all short-term rentals; and demand for year-only rental agreements. Residents who signed the petition expressed concerns about transient populations ruining the character of the community and decreasing property values.
We were pulled into this issue being ground zero next to the cause of the debate. You can locate the neighbor and alleged zoning offender (us), living side by side when you view the neighbor’s circulated flier that showcases, with large black arrows, exactly where my home and the other four Airbnb hosts are located. So, hello and thanks for all the extra traffic going by these days.
Our historic 1931 two-flat, which we purchased six years ago, live in and continue to renovate and rent, was built as and will be maintained in that tradition. It has housed friends, family members, roomies, international guests and renters. By living in the same house as a renter, we are the first line of defense against anyone invading the neighborhood, and first to protect our community.
As our use of an on-line service to insure quality tenants sounded an alarm, we want all to understand this is not a black-and-white or singularly local topic. We submit our tailored-to-Lake Bluff viewpoint below to assist with weeding through the abundance of general opinions and real absence of hard data.
Transients/Strangers/Zoombies and the Great Unknowns
There is a concern that an influx of out-of-town visitors will upset our quiet, longstanding residential neighborhood. But what I actually hear is: We have had enough, enough of transients constantly streaming along our residential historic downtown street. More transients drive in for our E. Scranton church services, and then again during the church evening social activities. Another 10,000+ transients taking over our street on July 4th. They re-appear for the Criterium, Friday morning Farmers Markets and Sunday evening concerts, museum walks, home tours, block parties, art fairs, plant sales, Ribfest, estate sales, etc. They party and park on our street to walk uptown. A further constant stream of noisy, unmarked vans or service vehicles service our lawns and cause us to zigzag while driving. The quiet enjoyment of our residential neighborhood is jeopardized every day.
I say, chill pill it and meet my happy guests who are thrilled to be here. Their vacationing enthusiasm will lift deflated spirits and calm your qualms quicker than any glass of wine. They enjoy the vacation, and truly love meeting people and spending their money locally to discover our town flavor. And in reality, the number of guests obtained through short-term rental platforms, compared to the masses that descend upon our little town every spring, summer and fall, is irrelevant. The reality is there have been no neighborhood disruptions, noise, traffic or public nuisance issues of any kind, related to Airbnb activities, for the past two years.
Decrease in Property Values
The chorus of we pay $25,000 a year (or just really high) taxes so we have the right not to have people we don’t know living on our street is another common refrain. I would suggest these same neighbors consider banning together to find a way to increase town revenue to offset rising property taxes.
I am not entering into any discussion of how high taxes might effect a property’s value. Instead, I charge you to recognize that many residents who want to stay here can no longer afford to live in Lake Bluff because of the high taxes and home values. I consider this a community responsibility.
Short-term rentals can bring in needed revenue and assist businesses, the town and property owners. Properly regulated short-term rentals actually create a solution to help control taxes and increase property values.
I find it troublesome to walk uptown for a snack only to find another closed store. The rotating open and closed business doors over the past eight years have included: The Noodle Bar, Village Market, Pasta Restaurant; Bakery, Hollys; Butcher Shop; Music/Instrument Store; Candy Store, Best Wishes Ice Cream, LuLusYogurt Shop, Children Clothes Shop, PNC Bank, BayBank, Wisma, Spice Store, Recycled Finds. Consider this as you read the data about how Airbnb has a strong positive economic impact on communities.
Harvard educated Jamilia Jefferson-Jones states ….. “short-term housing can actually help to preserve property values by providing income to homeowners that can be used to offset mortgage and maintenance costs – in other words, by allowing owners to share the burdens of ownership. Thus, rather than frustrating the goals and purposes for which old economy regulations were designed (e.g., the preservation of property values and neighborhood character), housing exchanges may instead aid in achieving these aims. Specifically, if homeowners are able to do so, they are more likely to be able to maintain their homes in the short-term and, in the long-term, to maintain ownership. Policies that curtail short-term rental housing are of a bygone era and are ill-suited to address the modern sharing economy.” “ http://scholarship.sha.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1133&context=crer
Research also shows that if an Airbnb property is advertised as having a rentable area, such as an in-law unit, coach house, English basement, or flat, with a separate entrance, there is no proven negative effect on property values. In fact, a home with a rentable feature might sell for more money, increasing the property values for the neighborhood.
I support appropriate regulations that bring in revenue and ensure happy guests walk two blocks uptown to the restaurants to party. I support crafting regulations, that consider that listing, communicating, checking backgrounds, cleaning, maintenance and documenting is a lot of hard work for owner occupied AirBNB hosts. Because of the amount of work, I don’t envision many Lake Bluffers choosing to continuously rent on a short term basis. But if there are some that are up to the task, then community acknowledgement of the responsibility and benefits should allow these primary owner occupied property owners a liberty to host generously.
Community – Keep Lake Bluff Liveable
Since Lake Bluff has never been a gated community what is meant exactly by short term rentals as threats to our village’s character and way of life? I define community as something bigger then ourselves; and not just about living on the same street, but about trust. Without trust we are simply a mesh of different people.
I trust that an individual who has lived within the community for a number of years, worked here, raised their family here and volunteered often, for the good of something bigger then themselves, would be a responsible host, and is the character of community Lake Bluff should fear losing.
Who will mentor newbees on what is involved in defining true community character when state budget problems and increasing taxes continues the exodus of Illinois residents?
Chicago Magazine stated that Lake Bluff is –A vibrant community that keeps it eye on its heritage.- Lake Bluff was established as a town that welcomed transients into summer homes, resorts, camps, orphanages. What better way for us to find solution then to revisit our roots.