Locals of the lakeshore town of South Haven are currently embroiled in a heated debate regarding the status and regulation of short-term rentals (STR) within the community.

South Haven is currently a town divided with some residents arguing about the tourism dollars these rentals bring in, while others say these rentals are pricing out prospective year-round residents out of the housing market by driving up the average housing prices. So, who's right?

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Rise in Rentals

Many of us have seen and experienced firsthand the rise in popularity of short-term rentals thanks to travel sites like Airbnb and VRBO. Many travelers are drawn to the unique properties offered across the globe as compared to traditional hotels.

According to Airbnb, their rentals across the state of Michigan have brought in approximately $660 million since 2010. So why are South Haven residents so against these tourism dollars?

Neighborhoods Need Neighbors

Local activist organization Neighborhoods Need Neighbors is a group of South Haven locals whose goal is to limit the negative impacts of STRs on the community. According to the group's Facebook page:

To be clear, tourists aren't the problem. They are more than welcome to come enjoy the beauty and charm of South Haven in any season. There are plenty of hotels, B&Bs, campsites, etc for them to stay at. But there are a finite number of houses in our neighborhoods, and each one that turns into a STR chips away at our community.

"Neighborhoods" group member Todd Heinrich explained to Michigan Capitol Confidential that partying at these rentals as well as absentee landlords has led to these properties becoming a nuisance for those who actually reside in the town year-round. In additions to issues from renters, Heinrich believes these STRs have raised the average home price in the town which has priced-out potential full-time residents.

How Do the Hosts Feel?

CapCon reports there are currently 550 registered short-term rentals in South Haven. Though the city has enacted ordinances requiring STRs to register with the city and undergo yearly inspections, property manager Gary Walker tells the site,

They [the city] are making up their own rules that are not industry standards, that are not industry codes, and we’re backed into a corner of facing fines for renting, even though we’re already booked for the summer.

Money Talks

What I can gather from this debate is that the town is divided when it comes to dollars and cents. The Neighborhood group argues those would-be full time residents will spend their dollars year round and become invested in the community, even though short-term rentals also bring in high tourism dollars albeit mostly during the summer months.

A Town Divided

Now that these debates have spilled onto social media it's turning away both prospective homebuyers who don't want to live in a town that's so divided and it's also turning away potential vacationers. Tourist Becky Marshall wrote,

As a tourist staying in a STR this weekend, I have to say I'm sorry I've made the decision to come. I hope the feeling we get when we are there is more welcoming than this page shows.

It's a tough debate as I understand both sides of the argument. However, as someone who enjoyed several summers staying in a week-long rental property in South Haven with my family as a kid, I would hate to see other families denied the opportunity to make memories in the beachside community due to lack of available rentals.

What do you believe is the best solution?

Sleepy Hollow, South Haven

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