Opinion | Kim McGahey: Let’s keep government out of the real estate business
Conservative Common Sense
As the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress tries to ram the Equality Act, the American Rescue Plan Act and For the People Act down our throats, one of our local Democratic town councils likewise is seeking to expand its totalitarian overreach with a proposed short-term rental limitation in Breckenridge.
Their big-government supporters don’t see anything wrong with council dictating winners and losers in public policy. But putting government restrictions on short-term rentals has serious negative constitutional, economic and personal consequences.
The biggest concern is whether the government has the constitutional right to tell private property owners who they can rent their property to. Can the government legally compel a property owner to use their property in a certain way contrary to their own wishes? If so, this slippery slope could end with government mandating to whom, when, how often and for how much a property owner can rent their property. Will the town eventually dictate that an owner must rent only to a certain kind of person as the Breckenridge Tourism Office recently suggested?
Property owners have certain rights under the U.S. Constitution free and clear of government intervention, and unhindered private property ownership is one of the key cornerstones of our republic. Once the government encroaches on the right to private property ownership, then it’s not long before we see government takeover and elimination of those rights.
I presume Breckenridge Town Council’s end goal is to eliminate short-term rentals altogether and turn them into mandated long-term employee housing so the town doesn’t have to build employee warehouses. I have always maintained that government should not be in the real estate business and thereby upset normal supply and demand market forces.
Instead, a proper function of government is to provide incentives to private developers, employing companies and individuals to help facilitate market-based solutions to local housing needs. A draconian, top-down policy like the council proposes is the wrong solution.
Current short-term rentals are pervasive in the town of Breckenridge and Summit County, providing those entities with significant revenue through licensing fees and local and state rental taxes. The renters themselves contribute to the local economy with significant sales taxes on lodging, food, skiing, entertainment and everything else their credit cards swipe for while they are here. That family of four from Denver staying in that short-term rental on High Street is happily pumping thousands of dollars a week into our local economy.
Furthermore, the short-term rental income makes it possible for many people to own resort real estate and thereby pay the 1% Town Transfer Tax directly into the coffers at 150 Ski Hill Road. Without those real estate purchases and without that 1% tax, we don’t fund golf courses, free transportation systems, recreation centers, performing arts centers and all the other cool stuff that makes our mountain resort community so enjoyable and special.
Finally, where are the thousands of short-term guests going to stay if not in the current units? They come here ready, willing and able to spend money in our shops, restaurants and bars. But if there is no place for them to conveniently and affordably stay, they will certainly go someplace else that makes it easy for them to vacation and invest.
This proposal for the government to limit short-term rentals is a fool’s errand. If we start loading up all the short-term rental units with long-term occupants, pretty soon we’ll have a lot of employees living here and no visitors or investors to buy our goods and services.
A better solution is to find ways for employers to fund employee housing. Employers could pay their employees enough so they could afford to own a condo here. Employers could develop employee housing with government tax incentives on satellite land in nearby less expensive areas. Employers could purchase units to rent specifically to their employees.
More government intervention means less freedom for property owners. Let’s keep our local government busy filling potholes and shooting off fireworks and keep them out of the rental business where they don’t belong.
Kim McGahey’s column “Conservative Common Sense” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. McGahey is a real estate broker, tea party activist and Republican candidate. He has lived in Breckenridge since 1978. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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