I just read an article about how the Nashville City Council recently passed a city ordinance banning short term rentals and it reminded me that the fight to keep short term rentals legal is being fought everywhere. I’ve been involved in this fight in San Diego for going on 7 years and while we’ve had our ups and downs throughout that time short term rentals have remained legal so we see that as a success. Our success here in San Diego has been born of mistakes and twists and turns along the way and we are ever cognizant that it could change at any moment, so we continue our fight and probably always will. But of all of the things we’ve learned along the way it’s that short term rental legality is a political issue and as Tip O’Neill is famous for saying, “all politics is local.”
- Meet and greet. Go see your city council person or local government representative. They say that laws are made by people who show up and this means you. Most local government representatives have office hours at a coffee shop or school where anyone can drop by and talk about anything on their mind. If enough people show up and bend their ear about why short term rentals should be legal and what they mean to their constituents, then that will impact their decisions when it comes time to legislate the issue.
- Visibility. We show up en mass at every city council meeting where short term rentals are a topic of discussion and we make sure everyone who is able to speak on the subject, and not just short term rental hosts but also local business owners who will suffer and lose business if short term rentals are banned. We ask people to talk about their personal stories and how banning short term rentals will impact their lives. If our local representatives can put a name and a face to an issue it’s harder for them to vote against you. And if our local representatives see how many people are passionate about keeping short term rentals legal then they better understand the large number of people whose lives will be impacted by their decisions.
- Knowledge. It’s critical to know where your local representatives stand on the matter of short term rentals and you should ask them, pointedly. Once you know where they stand you will know who to support. You can also see where they stand by looking at how they vote.
- Vote. Nowhere can we impact our local politics more than at the ballot box. Make it clear to your local representatives that short term rentals are a critical issue for you and you’ll not be voting for anyone who wants them banned. Then actually vote.
- Volunteer. Volunteer for the campaigns of those local candidates who support short term rentals. Help them canvas or phone bank. Local elections can come down to a few votes and you could be the person who helps a candidate win.
- Donate. It’s a sad fact that getting elected costs money so any donations you can make to help your local candidates who support short term rentals get elected will likely have a larger impact than you anticipate.
- Organize. Get your local short term rental supporters organized and on the same page. There’s nothing more powerful than an organized group of citizens with a common goal and the wherewithal to achieve it.
There’s so much you can do to help keep short term rentals legal where you live, but just remember that it requires everyone’s participation. And for those of you who think you’re just one person and can’t make a difference, I point you to my own experience volunteering for a local candidate who supported short term rentals running against a candidate who promised to ban them. Our candidate didn’t have the support of the local political parties or the labor unions (that went to her opponent) and everyone thought there was no way she could win, but we volunteered and contributed and she did end up winning by only a couple hundred votes in a district where nearly 30,000 people voted. I can’t claim that we got her elected, that was entirely her hard work and campaigning, but we did help her canvas and get her message out to the voters and every person who helped made a difference. You can make a difference too, start with one of the things listed above.