Many residents in Wilton Manors received a legislative action alert request directly from the city, encouraging them to email their State Representatives with the statement that “short-term vacation rentals are bringing down property values, and in many cases, forcing residents to put their home on the market.”
This statement, sent from the city, does not reflect my values and beliefs as commissioner nor is it a factually accurate statement.
The goal of the legislative action alert was to help convince our state representatives to support cities' rights to regulate short-term vacation rentals. I am a huge fan of keeping the right to govern locally (home rule) and I firmly believe our city should have the right to regulate what happens in our community.
I am, also, firmly against making inaccurate statements about the effect of short-term vacation rentals. Multiple studies have shown that vacation rentals are increasing property values in our city and serve a key role in supporting LGBT tourism and our local business community.
It is important to know that state law currently prevents us from banning vacation rentals. That’s an important basis for any conversation. Also, know that I am firmly against problem vacation rentals in our community as well as an outspoken ambassador for properly run vacation rentals.
There are countless vacation rentals that don’t allow fast turnovers and excessive guests (which can lead to unacceptable parties!) in favor of encouraging longer stays with a smaller number of guests.
As a city commissioner, I am here to accept responsibility for the problem as I recognize it. Our Code Compliance department is not yet as effective as it needs to be. This isn’t the fault of our existing code compliance staff — they are working tirelessly and passionately — but they are short-staffed. We lost Julio Davila, our Code Compliance Supervisor, to a nearby city that paid more for a job with fewer responsibilities. (One part of our problem as a city is that we continue to lose staff to nearby cities who pay employees more for the same or less work.)
This problem is manifesting not just in terms of short-term rentals, but for many different types of code complaints as well.
As a city, we need to work as efficiently as possible to solve the problem of insufficient code enforcement in our city. There are about a dozen vacation rental property owners in our city who are threatening the reputation of the community as a whole. We need code compliance to rapidly begin fining these problem property owners, and we need those fines to escalate rapidly for repeated offenses so we can weed out the problem property owners.
We also need our police force to be capable of responding to noise violation complaints — whether they involve a short-term rental or a resident exhibiting bad behavior — and be able to turn that into a code violation without the onus being on our residents to come in and file more paperwork.
Our slow, ineffective delivery of code violations is threatening this key economic driver keeping our city alive during COVID-19. A dozen bad apples, or less, who own short-term rentals are putting all of our vacation rentals at risk. We have to fix that.