Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Fish Story Contest 🎣 Asa Hutchinson 2024 Today's Photos Public Notices Digital FAQ Razorback Sports Puzzles Crime Distribution Locations Obits

NWA EDITORIAL | Short-term rentals for tourists chip away at housing availability for locals

Tourism rentals eat away at housing options by NWA Democrat-Gazette | March 21, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
In July, a sign in front of a home in the Trivista area notifies the neighborhood the owner has applied for a short-term rental business license. - File photo by Lance Porter of The Sentinel-Record

"Strangers aren't that strange. Try hosting," says the AirBnB commercial as it seeks out homeowners willing to turn their properties into tourist lodging.

VRBO -- which stands for Vacation Rentals by Owners -- uses its marketing budget lately to stress its hosted locations are private rentals, with no awkward sharing of space with a local. And we get it: Most people appreciate some level of certainty that their time on vacation won't be disrupted by the presence of a stranger.

That's exactly how neighbors are feeling in towns across the nation and right here in Northwest Arkansas as the short-term rentals rob them of neighbors and inject an ever-changing cast of unknowns into their neighborhoods.

Tensions between owner-occupied housing and rental units have existed for a long time. But one of the things disrupting local housing these days are short-term rentals. It's a market/economy made possible by the Internet and online companies that specialize in brokering deals between property owners and strangers. For a vacationer or visitor, such properties can be a welcome, roomier and more comfortable alternative to hotels.

One of the big challenges, though, in an area like Northwest Arkansas where the housing options are pretty tight and expensive is this: Short-term rentals gobble up housing that was formerly available to long-term renters or possible buyers.

Frustrations over this kind of scenario came up recently at a Fayetteville Planning Commission meeting. A developer three years ago, seeking a rezoning, proposed building smaller, less costly homes along Fletcher Avenue. Commissioners welcomed the new structures for their potential contribution to relieving the tight affordable housing market. Flash forward to 2023 and it's easy to understand how frustrating it is that three new owners of those properties now seek permission to rent them out as short-term rentals.

That's great for tourists, and probably more lucrative for property owners. But it does little to help bring Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas out of what is really a housing crunch.

In a perfect world, there would be room for all such uses -- more permanent housing at affordable levels and units to house visitors to the region. Is it desirable, though, for local people to face a housing crunch while visitors enjoy a nice roof over their heads?

A bill by Sen. Joshua Bryant of Rogers seeks to prohibit cities from any regulation of short-term rentals. Let the free market reign, Bryant says.

Doing that, and nothing else, puts lower- to middle-income people -- Arkansans, not tourists -- who are searching for reliable, affordable housing in a tighter pinch. And the gap between the haves and have nots gets wider.

More News


What's the point?

Growing use of local housing as short-term rentals is great for tourists, but builds more challenges for local people seeking stable and affordable housing.


Print Headline: Long and short of it


Sponsor Content