Vacation rental tipping point | Letter

We are concerned and worried about our island communities! Short-term vacation rentals reduce the availability of affordable long-term rental housing, making it almost impossible for families and workers to find adequate housing. Substantial income potential provides an incentive to convert residences to short-term rentals. However, short-term rentals increase rental costs, and since the value of property is based in part on income potential, it also drives up the price of property, compounding the affordability problem. Currently, there are off-island investment vehicles whose profits go off island. This seems especially to be a problem on Orcas. In the Eastsound Water District alone, vacation rentals grew from 40 in 2014 to 150 currently!

If this goes unchecked, we will reach a tipping point where only occasional visitors and the wealthy will be able to afford to live on Orcas. This will result in a significant change in our social fabric, creating a one-dimensional community where families and workers that provide talent, vitality and diversity are unable to live.

A certain amount of vacation rentals is acceptable and provides needed economic support, but there needs to be a limit. Jurisdictions such as Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Fresno and Denver have restricted short-term rentals. San Juan County needs to adopt a moratorium to evaluate this growing problem and find a viable and sensible solution. Please contact our council representatives Rick Hughes (360-298-5103), Bill Watson (360-370-7473) and Jamie Peterson (360-378-2989) and voice your concern.

Greg and Heather Dew Oaksen