Last summer, multiple Paradise Valley police units responded to a wild party at a single-family home registered to a corporation. Most of the 300 attendees were impaired – many were intoxicated and on various illicit drugs. Some were heavily armed. It was a dangerous and dire situation for the neighbors and for the town’s small police force, and the home suffered about $400,000 in damages before officers were able to shut it down.
While this incident stands out for the scale and significance of the damages involved, it is unfortunately not a unique story in Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Page, Fountain Hills, Sedona, Phoenix, and other communities across Arizona, where neighborhoods are forced to deal with negative impacts – both large and small – from short-term rentals.
The unrestrained invasion of short-term rentals into residential neighborhoods is a growing problem with far-reaching consequences for residents across the state. Indeed, in December 2020, over 30 mayors from around Arizona – representing more than 4.5 million Arizonans – shared our deep concerns with Arizona’s current law and the need for reform directly with the CEOs of Airbnb and Expedia Group.
That’s also why a coalition of Arizona cities and towns are supporting legislation, HB2481, that would finally re-empower local communities to crack down on the bad actors of the short-term rental industry currently protected under the guise of the “sharing economy.” The facts are clear – the lack of meaningful regulations to protect our communities is negatively impacting our economy, overtaxing our police departments, and denying our residents the freedom and ability to enjoy their homes and neighborhoods in peace and safety.
A new report produced by respected economist Elliott Pollack outlines the severe consequences and impacts of short-term rentals. Backed by extensive research, the report shows the explosive growth in short-term rentals. In just five years, they have multiplied by about seven times, with more than 1.5 million units now listed on various platforms across the U.S. And these aren’t simply people renting out a room in their home or renting the house while they’re away. Many of these are corporations that buy up homes – introducing unwanted commercial activities, crime and other serious disruptions into our once peaceful neighborhoods. While these challenges are not exclusive to Arizona, we are unique in disallowing local authority over the industry. HB2481 would help mitigate the damage being done to our communities.
Cities and towns want commonsense laws that allow for responsible, accountable and transparent local regulation, zoning ordinances and enforcement actions. HB2481 gives local governments the flexibility to establish regulations that protect residential neighborhoods while still allowing for short-term rentals like the other states in our country. We realize that every community is different – and what might work great in Paradise Valley or Sedona may not work in other areas of the state.
This legislative reform would allow cities and towns to impose some limits on the number of people in a short-term rental, while allowing us to create zoning restrictions limiting the number of rentals in any one neighborhood. This would be a huge improvement over the 2016 law that stopped cities and towns from enacting limits on industry abuses.
In “The Conscience of a Conservative,” Senator Barry Goldwater wrote: “Local problems are best dealt with by the people most directly concerned.” I couldn’t agree more. At a fundamental level, every Arizona citizen deserves to be able to live in their home, free from nightly chaos, disruptions and crime. We encourage the Legislature to pass HB2481 and urge Gov. Doug Ducey to sign it into law. Give back cities and towns the proven tools we need to protect our neighborhoods and our residents.
Jerry Bien-Willner is the mayor of Paradise Valley.