Dealing with STRs, Housing, Staffing Shortages are part of Sustainability
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN THE RED ROCK NEWS
July 23, 2021
Sustainability is an ambiguous word that people interpret differently. At the chamber of commerce, it pertains to economic vitality for our 725 member businesses today and into the future. That means taking on issues that affect our economy and quality of life. Here are a few areas we see as sustainability challenges:
Short Term Rentals
There are 1,276 STRs in greater Sedona, with almost 300 coming on to the market since January. That equates to approximately 2,500 private rooms for rent, increasing our lodging inventory by 33% without plans for sufficient parking, security, waste management and employee housing. Add concerns about noise, parties, and the unending rotation of “strangers” in the neighborhood, and you understand the corrosive impact of unregulated STRs. The state of Arizona forbid cities from acting; Sedona cannot even require a business license.
The chamber will join the Sedona Lodging Council at a fall symposium with national experts and we intent to invite all STR stakeholders. Convening private industry, government officials, nonprofits and residents to talk through possible options is an appropriate role for the chamber.
Housing and staffing shortages
Sustaining a robust economy includes reasonably priced housing and adequately staffed businesses. Right now, Sedona has neither. STRs contribute to the workforce housing problem by taking long term rentals off the market and driving up pricing for what little inventory remains. Workers and families must find other communities to live in and commute, though lack of affordability iin the greater Verde Valley is making even that option less tenable for many.
The private and public sectors must shoulder some of the blame. Sedona has added just 623 hotel rooms in the last 20 years, opening the door to STRs. The Jordan Lofts project, if it meets with Council approval, will expand our rental base by 84 units which, combined with the recently approved Sunset Lofts 46 affordable units, is a step in the right direction. Currently, only 4% of Sedona’s housing stock is available to rent.
Meanwhile, wages continue to rise, with some local businesses offering starting hourly pay upwards of $18/hour with benefits. Still, staffing shortages remain critical, despite a slight recent uptick in hiring.
The growing popularity of off-highway vehicles (OHV/ATV) among poorly-educated consumers are impacting our public lands with noise, dust and damage to foliage, aggravating residents and the agricultural community.
The concept of sustainability compels us to find a way forward. This year, the chamber will introduce Sedona to Tread Lightly!, a consortium of outdoor equipment companies who promote outdoor ethics and stewardship among OHV riders. Tread Lightly! is leading these conservations around the country and could help us define a Sedona-specific solution.
On July 12, we participated in the ribbon-cutting for the Verde Shuttle, an enhanced Verde Lynx service between Cottonwood and Sedona. The system features new buses running every 45 minutes on the five busiest days of the week, with $1 and $2 fares from Cottonwood to West Sedona, Uptown and South Sedona. The service offers hospitality workers affordable transportation while removing cars from the road.
The chamber will continue to be a catalyst, convener and champion on these issues and others. Join us August 25 for our first in-person Community Pulse event sponsored by APS. Space is limited, so please register in advance.
-Candace Carr Strauss,