FORT BRAGG, Calif. — An organization called the Mendocino Coast Housing Action Team, colloquially referred to as HAT, has drafted a draft ordinance for the county that will reduce investment vacation rentals to 2% of the housing stock on the coast. According to data provided by HAT, the county has approximately 500 legal vacation rentals. Ninety percent is in the coastal areas and that’s about four percent of the residential housing on the north and south coasts combined.
The order is designed to reduce investment vacation rentals and does not apply to landlords who live on sight and have legal short-term rentals for additional income. In addition, it does not apply to residents who rent a room. An investment vacation rental is a vacation rental that is not the owner’s primary residence. This could mean second homes or properties purchased for the sole purpose of managing a short-term rental.
HAT does not offer an immediate discount. They propose that permits expire as current investment rents are sold. No additional permits will be issued until the 2% cap has been reached. This protects existing investors but prevents new vacation rentals or property transfers from one investor to another. The hope is that over time, some of the homes that are currently rented out will be returned to the housing stock for residents.
Supervisor Dan Gjerde sits on an ad hoc committee with Supervisor Ted Williams that focuses on the housing crisis in coastal areas of Mendocino County. Gjerde says he supports presenting the HAT’s recommendations to the full Board for review and comment before moving forward with an order. Gjerde sees it as a way to stop the bleeding. He believes vacation rentals are inflating housing costs along the coast and many properties are being marketed as vacation rentals for sale to investors.
Travis Scott, executive director of the Mendocino County Tourism Commission, said, “MCTC has reviewed the proposed ordinance and they take no position on the matter.
The Coastal Mendocino Association of Realtors opposes the ordinance according to President Birdie Wilson-Holmes. The Council of Estate Agents emailed all members and the response was unified in opposition. They met on Thursday, May 19 and voted unanimously that they oppose a moratorium on vacation rentals without further analysis or amendment to protect property rights. Wilson-Holmes personally believes there is a general consensus among local realtors like her that this is not the path to more affordable housing. Wilson-Homes supports the addition of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). ADU ordinances were adopted in 2019.
The HAT helped publicize changes to county ordinances in 2019 that simplified the licensing process for ADUs. According to HAT coordinator Elizabeth Swenson, they had many inquiries, but the cost of adding a second unit is prohibitive in many cases.
In January, the HAT released a survey of North Coast employers and employees on housing and its impacts on the workforce. Of the 72 employer responses, nearly 100% of respondents supported obtaining subsidies and changing policies and zoning to create more workforce housing. Eighty-seven per cent felt that workforce housing should be local government’s top priority or one of its three main focus areas. At a meeting sponsored by Coast Democrats to discuss hospital and health care issues in February, lack of housing was raised as a concern to fill vacancies at the hospital, clinics and to other health care providers.
According to Swenson, HAT is also advocating for allowing Tiny Homes on Wheels across the county to increase housing. She said when the state recently changed the rules, the HAT contacted the city of Fort Bragg, which has since authorized them. Tiny Houses on Wheels have not been countywide approved. Supervisor Dan Gjerde says he would want to make sure neighbors are protected from noise and other factors before considering a change that allows Tiny Homes on Wheels in the county.