Left, Barbara Paulsen, Nevadans for the Common Good. Right, Jackie Flores, Greater Las Vegas Short Term Rental Association
Policy, politics and progressive commentary
The Clark County Commission is sticking to a plan to drastically slash the number of short-term rentals in Southern Nevada by licensing a fraction of current operators and fining those who are unlicensed.
The Commission introduced an ordinance Tuesday that would permit one percent of the housing units in unincorporated Clark County, about 2,850, to be licensed as transient lodging and pay the Transient Lodging Tax, which ranges between 10.5% and 13.38% of rent, depending on location.
County officials estimate as many as 12,000 unlicensed STRs are currently operating illegally.
The proposed ordinance is the result of a legislative mandate that Clark County regulate short-term rentals. The rules do not affect STRs that are permitted by other Southern Nevada municipalities.
The Greater Las Vegas Short-Term Rental Association has raised $50,000 of its $100,000 goal for a legal fund, according to co-founder Jackie Flores, and has hired Hutchison Steffen, the law firm of former Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, a Republican.
“With inflation at a 40-year high and a looming recession, we hope our public officials heed our calls and reverse their course of taking away people’s ability to earn income through hosting and handing that money over to the resort hotels which have been reporting record profits month after month since last year,” Flores said in a statement. ”This is the last thing our Democratic officials should be doing to regular folks in Clark County during these difficult economic times!”
Las Vegas is the most profitable location in the U.S. to own a vacation rental, according to Airbnb data collected by Compare the Market, a price comparison website based in the United Kingdom. The average monthly rent for an Airbnb in Las Vegas is nearly $10,500, which is 555% more than the average rent for a lease.
Institutional and out-of-state investors have flooded what was once billed as a mom-and-pop sideline industry – a means of helping residents augment their modest incomes. Now, the revolving door of tourists in and out of homes in Southern Nevada neighborhoods often pits homeowners against one another in a battle over quality of life vs. property rights.
Barbara Paulsen of Nevadans for the Common Good, a community organization that has held town hall meetings on the lack of affordable housing, endorsed the measure.
“Specifically, we agree that licenses should be limited to one person or entity in order to stem the trend of turning our homes into hotels owned by large equity firms,” Paulsen said during public comment. The organization also supports the requirement that licensed STRs be at least 1,000 feet apart.
Other residents said STRs have provided an economic lifeline since the massive job losses of the pandemic.
“The majority of us here are retired women, trying to keep the rain out of their living room,” said resident Leslie Doyle.
Las Vegan John Wong told commissioners his mother turned to renting a property short-term when she was laid off from her MGM Grand job in 2020.
“It is now 2022. She has not received a call back from her job on the Strip,” Wong said. Should the County ordinance pass, his mother and thousands of others could be fined for renting unlicensed units. “She would rather host on Airbnb, and I enjoy helping her out. Do you think the casinos really care about her or anyone else they laid off?”
Several commissioners attempted to deflect criticism that the hotel industry championed the ordinance.
“We’ve heard from lots of them who have no concerns whatsoever which way we go in terms of the rentals,” said Chairman Jim Gibson. “I just think it’s important to put that out there because some of you think that this is driven by the Resort Association.”
Commissioner Justin Jones pointed out the Nevada Resort Association submitted no comment for the proposed ordinance’s Business Impact Statement.
The NRA supports regulating and taxing “these commercial operations similarly to other public accommodation facilities,” president Virginia Valentine testified at the 2021 Nevada Legislature.
It prohibits STRs from operating:
- In apartments and common-interest communities, unless authorized by governing documents
- In multifamily dwellings where more than 10% of units would be licensed as transient lodging
- Within 2,500 feet of a resort hotel
- Within 1,000 feet of another residential STR
Additional provisions provide:
- No property owner may have a legal or beneficial ownership interest in more than one license
- A party who had an STR license revoked, suspended or not renewed in the last seven years cannot be licensed
- A party who voluntarily relinquished a license during a proceeding to revoke, suspend or not renew an STR permit cannot be licensed
- A property “regularly and continuously” used for or to facilitate criminal activity cannot be licensed.
The proposed ordinance exempts short-term rentals in Mt. Charleston, Moapa, Moapa Valley, Mesquite, and Bunkerville from the rules. It is scheduled for another public hearing and a vote on June 21.
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