The true cost of vacation rentals | Letter

Does it feel to you like those short-term vacation rental properties are popping up everywhere?

It does to me. And some of us are beginning to sense some alarm bells for our island community.

For one, San Juan County is already struggling to meet community needs for affordable housing. Last fall, we adopted Yes on Homes, a potentially positive step by any measure. Yet, even before the first dollars can be spent on the Yes plan, some [of] our friends most in need of affordable housing are being displaced when existing long-term rentals are converted literally overnight into vacation rentals.

The sheer number of vacation rental permits suddenly seems to be skyrocketing, with no end in sight. Increasingly these are going to outside business interests who see our county as simply the latest “hot market.”

Today, we are asking one very basic question: What is the “true cost of vacation rentals” on our community, on our housing supply, on our neighborhoods and on our cherished rural island environment?

So now a spontaneous group, of which I am an enthusiastic part, has decided to open a community conversation on vacation rentals, open to all, with the proviso that we all speak openly and honestly, from the heart. We want your thoughts on the “true cost” and we want to learn what we can from other communities that have experienced similar conversions.

Let’s have a community conversation on the true cost of vacation rentals, July 17, 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the school cafeteria (on Orcas).

Please come. Please share.

Toby Cooper

Orcas Island