Chamber works STRs into plan


February 15, 2019


img_8952An article at recently threw a spotlight on one of Sedona’s continuing challenges – having enough housing at a price working families can afford to rent or buy.

The article singles out short term rentals (STRs) as a significant reason for high prices and shrinking inventory. It states short-term rentals make up about 20% of Sedona’s housing – more than 1,000 units. That’s a three-fold increase since state law stopped cities from prohibiting STRs in 2017.

Many of today’s STRs used to house long-term renters, including Sedona families. The switch to STRs drove rental inventory down and prices up. Families headed by teachers, nurses, electricians, office professionals, police officers, and small business owners now look elsewhere for housing, as evidenced by the declining enrollment in Sedona public schools.

But STRs are not the only culprit, or even the main one. City policymakers have wrestled inconclusively with the housing crunch for more than ten years, well before STRs appeared on the scene. The City Council wisely lifted longtime restrictions on apartment development 14 months ago, but the policy stymied construction of workforce housing in the city for years. Only four percent of our housing is apartments, compared to 20 percent in most communities.

The ballooning real estate market has an impact, too. AZ Central quotes the median home price in Sedona is $555,000 – well beyond the reach of a family earning the median Sedona household income of roughly $57,000.

Unless state law changes and if they are profitable, STRs are here to stay. We acknowledge this reality at the Chamber, where we are integrating STR owners into Sedona’s business community, helping them build relationships and improve communications. We have welcomed several as new Chamber partners.

Our forthcoming Sustainable Tourism Plan has a strong STR component. We plan to create a network of STR owners to serve as a forum for discussion and an avenue for educating STR guests on our sustainable tourism ethos. With materials and ideas, we will encourage STRs to help their guests respect our small-town neighborhood lifestyle, be sensitive in their encounters with our natural environment, and support Sedona-based businesses.

Just as in tourism management, adapting to short-term rentals requires finding a balance. While we are working to integrate STRs into our sustainable tourism plans and our business community, for example, we also support legislative efforts to allow some local regulation of STRs — such as requiring the same health and safety standards our hotels must meet.

The ultimate goal: a diverse housing mix that enriches Sedona with more families, age groups, ethnicities, and income levels – will require a blend of tactics our city leaders must continue to strive to achieve. Though they are (understandably) getting a lot of attention at the moment, short-term rentals are just one of the variables.

–Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO