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'No blanket solution': Statewide group opposes bills on short-term renting

The two pieces of legislation had hearings last week and are expected to be up for voting tomorrow. Movement could start as soon as this week.

MICHIGAN, USA — 13 ON YOUR SIDE has been covering the housing market issues across West Michigan and across the state. Along the lakeshore, tourist destinations are now also finding it hard to compete with short-term rental properties.

Legislation that could have a major effect on these communities goes to a vote Tuesday, and some local leaders across the state are speaking out in opposition.

"We are holding this news conference to call attention to an issue that threatens the ability of local communities being able to decide what works best for their residents and their businesses," said Jennifer Rigterink, from the Michigan Municipal League.

This group of local municipal leaders, housing advocates and public safety officials are urging lawmakers to vote down legislation that would allow short-term rentals to operate without regulation in Michigan.

The first is Senate Bill 446. The second is House Bill 4722

Both bills were created to amend the "Michigan Zoning Enabling Act." 

The two pieces of legislation had hearings last week and are expected to be up for voting Tuesday. Movement could start as soon as this week.

"The language that is contained in Senate Bill 446 and House Bill 4722 would take away our ability and that of our citizens to create balanced suggestions that we're hoping to achieve," said Michael Cain, City Manager for Boyne City, Mich. 

The two bills would essentially give blanket-approval of short-term rentals around the state, but these opponents say each community is different. 

"Essentially, the bills allow for unfettered use of regulating of not letting locals regulate residential properties," said Rigterink. "We're opposed to a government one-size-fits-all solution."

In 2010, the Saugatuck Township Fire District started their short term rental inspection program, with about 50 properties. Today, there are more than 700 properties in their tri-county service area. Deputy Chief and Fire Inspector Chris Mantels said the program was created to keep people safe. 

"I have personally inspected rental dwellings where beds were added to walk-in closets with no egress windows to maximize profits for the home," Mantels said.

Mantels is afraid that Senate Bill 446 and House Bill 4722 would take away their inspection program, which would allow for more dangerous situations for visitors and residents.

"The bottom line is that Senate Bill 446 and House Bill 4722 will eliminate our ability to maintain our local process to ensure the safety of the visitors who use these businesses," said Mantels.

And as for the housing market, Yarrow Brown, Executive Director of Housing North in Traverse City, said the growth in these short-term rentals has "certainly" added to the growth in tourism and local economies.

"But communities still need to have solutions available to ensure there is enough housing for those who wish to live here and work full-time," Brown said.

Each of these leaders, though, said they are not opposed to short-term renting in any way. They agree it has a positive impact on tourism and the local economy.

They just want to fight to keep it in the hands of local decisions.

"These bills are a blanket solution when a balanced local solutions will be much more effective," said Brown. 

13 ON YOUR SIDE wants to be clear that today's meeting included only those in opposition to the bills. 

We are working to get more details from those who sponsored the bills and who are in favor of it. 

The following were a part of today's virtual press conference:

Jennifer Rigterink, Michigan Municipal League

Michael Cain, Boyne City city manager

Yarrow Brown, Housing North Executive Director, Traverse City

Chris Mantels, Saugatuck Township Fire District deputy chief and fire inspector

Michael Zender, owner of Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Lodge

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