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Another perspective on what appears to be unregulated short term rentals

10/18/21

From: Barbara Turrill,  Newport

Viewpoint commentary

For six weeks in August and part of Sept last year, I worked as a census enumerator. The federal government sent me out to mostly unincorporated areas of Lincoln County from Yachats to Seal Rock, with a binder full of census forms, an ID badge and a cell phone. My work day ran from 8:30 to 6:30, with two fifteen minute breaks and a thirty minute lunch break. I sometimes qualified for overtime and worked a bit later, until 7:30 or 8. It was exhausting.

I primarily searched for addresses that were tucked away on both sides of Highway 101. My overwhelming experience, over and over again, was finding that these addresses were vacation rentals, otherwise known as short-term rentals, or STRs. There’s a look that STRs have. Sometimes it was obvious neglect – paint flaking off, weeds around the driveway, rusty screen doors, children’s toys tangled in blackberries. Other houses simply had multiple census forms that would never be filled out, stuffed under flower pots or under a crumbling doormat. Enumerators were required to return to addresses that did not show a response at least 4 times and each time the census worker would leave a form. The questionable concept of a wide swath of the county being dominated by unoccupied houses did not seem to matter to the US Census Bureau. It certainly did not make sense to those of us having to return multiple times to the same empty addresses. Taxpayers were paying me and the other enumerators to drive around unincorporated Lincoln County repeatedly to try to get vacation rentals to act like homes. It was a clear indication of what a difference ten years can make in the life of a residential community that becomes attractive to investors who may or may not live in what used to be a neighborhood.

Time after time, I would learn that the house at a specific address was no longer owned by an individual. Housekeepers would simply point to the corporate sign nailed to the porch railing or vacationers would back away from the door, stating that they didn’t live there, they were just on vacation. The change was haunting and in many cases very sad. A person or any entity with the funds to purchase property does not mean that the resulting community will be vibrant or healthy, or that the surrounding people left living in the area will benefit in any way.

I used to wonder who cared about those empty buildings, now short-term rentals. Some had clearly been family homes at one time. If I ran into any neighbors – which happened rarely – they just looked puzzled when I asked if they knew who lived there. “Nobody,” they said. There is currently a initiative on the November ballot which will address the STR issues facing Lincoln County’s unincorporated areas. To find more information about ballot measure 21-203, go to: yachatsnews.com and read the article by Quinton Smith from 10/15/21; read the Newport News Times’ reports by Kenneth Lipp on 10/15/21, and/or go to www.co.lincoln.or.us/clerk for a copy of the Voters’ Pamphlet. Voting for this ballot measure will go a long way toward creating a more sustainable and livable community throughout Lincoln County.

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