On August 18th, Sonoma county Board of supervisors voted to cap the number of permits in the county at 1943 for a period of 45 days. However, while this initial Ordinance applies for 45 days, the board voted in favor of extending the cap for up to a total of two years. This means that anyone who submits an application for a permit after that date will have to wait a permit to become available. (The property below was purchased a couple of months ago so will now have to wait for a permit)
Permits will be released either when a property owner decides not to renew (unlikely given they are an increasingly valuable commodity, or when a property is sold, at which time the permit is made available to the next person on the waitlist.
According to the board of supervisors, "homeowners and outside investors are increasingly converting affordable single-family residences into luxury short term rentals". This is itself is a contradiction because a property that falls into the "affordable" category, definitely will not be a "luxury rental". I would argue there are two very different sets of buyers.
I can definitely appreciate that in an area like Guerneville which to date has attracted a huge number of vacation rental buyers because of there are no exclusion zones unlike many other parts of the county, it has a direct impact on the community. However, is it better for the local community and economy that these homes bring visitors in versus sitting empty as second homes, which is the other likely alternative?
Surely there are some alternative ways to manage vacation rentals such as capping the number of days it is possible to vacation rent a home in a given year, or cap the number of properties in a given region. A blanket cap across the county doesn't take into account the distribution of properties which is the thing that will make the biggest impact on a single community.
However, all is not lost. There are a few exceptions to the cap:
- Properties in Sonoma county's coastal region are exempt
- Single room rentals in a property where the homeowner remains in residence are allowed
- Vacation rentals that are subject to city vacation rental rules are exempt
- Properties that have a bed and breakfast zoning also fall outside of this cap.
A Real Alternative To Get Around The Vacation Rental Rules
It is worth noting that all of the vacation rental rules apply to renting a property for less than 30 days. Any rental for 30 days or more, because a standard month to month lease agreement with the only restrictions based on specific CC&Rs for a particular HOA. For example these two properties are available for 30 day or more rentals (pictured below)
In the light of the pandemic which means that people have greater flexibility about where they can work from, there is an increasingly large number of people who can rent for 30 days or more. Not only does this get around the problem of the most recent cap but it is gives homeowners who own properties in rural areas where the zoning excludes the right to vacation rent a property.
With this in mind, one idea that is gaining traction is the concept of "ShareBnB" whereby a homeowner rents their home to a group of people. For example, I have a client with a home on Lytton Springs Road who is looking for 3 other families to join him in sharing the home over the course of a year. Each family would pay to use the home for a total of 3 months over the year, choosing their preferred 13 weeks in conjunction with the other sharers.
This not only makes renting more affordable, it is also a genuine alternative to second home ownership.
Another model that is also gaining traction is true shared ownership whereby eight familes buy a single home and then share its use. One company, Niner Homes, already has a number of homes available for fractional ownership in places such as Palm Springs and Napa Valley. There are none in Sonoma County yet, but it would be a natural location in which to expand.