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Sarasota skyline. (Photo by Mike Lang, Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

FL - More short-term rentals in Sarasota means less affordable housing

Noise, traffic and changes to community character are the topics that tend to dominate recent debates about the area’s booming increase in short-term vacation rentals.

But Cicely Hodges at the Florida Policy Institute is more concerned with short-term rentals' severe impact on affordable housing.

Hodges is the institute’s new housing and community development policy analyst, adding her statewide expertise to a special focus on Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

In Hodges’ recent analysis of short-term rentals, she found that the city of Sarasota and its surrounding unincorporated communities alone have a whopping 6,654 active short-term rentals listed through AirBnb and Vrbo – an increase of more than 1,000 units since 2021.

The analysis comes as the Sarasota City Council considers extending its regulationson vacation rentals from the barrier islands to its mainland neighborhoods. On the mainland, the city counts about 700 vacation rentals, though some might be owner-occupied and therefore not subject to regulations.

Hodges’ numbers on Sarasota were gleaned from AirDNA, an online vacation rental data and analytics company, and they encompass a slightly bigger area.

The website’s map of Sarasota’s 6,654 listings include the mainland city as well as the barrier island communities of St. Armands, Lido Key and Siesta Key, and parts of unincorporated Sarasota County.

The latter is significant because a Sarasota County ordinance bans short-term vacation rentals or stays of less than 30 days in single-family residential districts.

The volume, Hodges noted, is likely exacerbating the housing crisis by cutting into the supply of long-term rentals through the conversion of those units and buildings into short-term vacation homes.

“It’s driving away rental opportunities,” Hodges said. “How many people are forgoing housing or choosing to rent short term?”

In addition, studies show that short-term rentals contribute to rising overall rental rates and home prices.

Other communities in the region also are facing growth in short-term rentals. Ranking second behind Sarasota among the 13 cities Hodges analyzed was Bradenton Beach with 2,340. Third was Bradenton – which included part of unincorporated Manatee County – with 2,265.

Hodges recommends that local governments join forces to pressure the state for the return of its rights to more forcefully control short-term rentals – control that has been pre-empted by the Legislature over the last dozen years.

At the same time, cities and counties need to push for LLC transparency – to question the argument that these vacation rentals are mostly mom-and-pop endeavors versus investor enterprises.  

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