The onslaught of emerging Short Term Rentals in Lincoln County has drawn heavy scrutiny at the County Courthouse in downtown Newport. The rising number of Short Term Rentals, or STR’s in the county outside of cities, have made the news lately. Out of town real estate representatives are buying up homes outside city limits turning those homes in to revolving “single home motels.” Many out of town investors buy up these “home motels” and start making quite a bit of cash often to the detriment of long time neighbors who complain about noise, loud music, parking problems and the like.
Vacation rentals built within city limits of Newport, Lincoln City, Waldport, etc, are pretty well regulated. But when rural homes become the targets of out-of-town real estate company owners, the situation can often deteriorate for nearby neighbors. And they do, with great regularity. Unfortunately it’s hard for the limited staff of the Sheriff’s Department to do much about it – the county has a lot of territory to cover.
The core issue is that there’s very little regulation of STRs by patrolling law enforcement who are 95% occupied with normal law enforcement duties – catching speeders, drivers drag-racing on roads and highways, answering citizen calls for help or assistance, etc.
Recently County Clerk Dana Jenkins learned that many people from “the valley and Portland” were scooping up houses and making a lot of money running a growing spread of “converted homes” in rural areas – homes that are being turned in to vacation rentals. Those who now own those homes got cross-wise with Jenkin’s office. Jenkins learned about out-of-town vacation customers and the growing frequent noise, parking problems and the lack of business owners’ oversight because most of them don’t live in Lincoln County – literally “out-of-town” property owners.
As these “vacation rentals” are transformed from regular full-time family homes to one or two story turn-stile short term rentals, everything changed. Housing prices have soared, local rents are skyrocketing Many locals, including teachers, nurses, independent workmen and women, even a number of law enforcement officers, who work within Lincoln County are watching their ability to pay their bills fall off a cliff. Rising numbers of homes bought out by out-of-county real estate executives who turn them around and operate them as mini-motels, are changing the economy along with social and neighborhood environments.
That’s when County Clerk Dana Jenkins lowered the boom. Jenkins switched gears and investigated who was really “living” in these homes and, of course, it was the renters who got permission from the real estate investors. Jenkins quickly pointed out that the home’s true owner, who lives in the valley, was prepared to cast an election vote as if he was living in Lincoln County. Yet the owner registered to vote as if he was a full-time resident on the coast, which he was not. He just owns the place. He lives in his other house usually in another county. The definition of the situation is that the owner seldom visits his/her property while the real estate industry as a whole turns the whole area into vacation rentals. Big money. Big, big money.
Again, enter County Clerk Dana Jenkins. He tracks down a number of these homes that are allegedly regular, long term homes. But they’re not. They’re “house motels” in single family neighborhoods, which doesn’t please the neighbors due to noise and parking problems while the far-away owner is making mountains of rent money.
Jenkins of course knew that there is an election coming up and he knows there is a local citizens group, “15 Neighborhoods,” who has put a ballot measure up for a vote to try to stop what’s been termed wealthy people, who don’t live on the coast, none-the-less buying homes on the coast and turning them into vacation rentals.
Bye-bye REAL neighborhoods. Sad but true – but it’s legal.
Clerk Jenkins has been working steadily to get to the bottom of everything – analyzing the situation, realizing that a lot of out-of-area real estate moguls were buying homes up and down Lincoln County (and still are) and registered themselves to VOTE IN LINCOLN COUNTY (in addition to their home county) so as to solidify their investments by pretending to be ACTUAL VOTERS in Lincoln County, which, by law, they’re not. Maybe they didn’t know it, but now they do. Under the law, just because you own property in different counties doesn’t mean you get to vote in federal and state elections from TWO (or more) counties – you’re multiple voting if you do. You’re stuffing the ballot box – and that’s illegal.