Northern tourist towns consider legislature vote on short-term rentals

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When Monica Peck married her second husband two years ago, it meant her family numbered seven under one roof.

His little house in Boyne City wouldn’t do. She and her husband spent a year looking for accommodation with a few bedrooms on a budget of $ 250,000. They couldn’t find anything that could work.

“You buy a house now for $ 250,000 in Boyne City, the chances that you have to invest an additional $ 50,000 to make it habitable are huge,” she said. “It’s just crazy what people can charge for homes now. “

Peck, a longtime Boyne resident, is the director of the district library and her husband runs the Boyne City Farmers Market. They moved 30 minutes to Gaylord where they could afford a house.

Peck and his family are still working and going to school in Boyne. But the long distance has meant that she can’t volunteer as much, can’t vote in local elections, and has a harder time making plans with friends and family.

“It seems like a top notch problem when you think about the hardships other people are going through, but it was so heartbreaking because he and I love this community so much,” she says.

In recent years, about 140 Boyne City homes have started operating at least sometimes as vacation rentals. This is nearly 6% of the housing stock of the riverside town of approximately 2,333 housing units, located near Charlevoix and Petoskey.

Steve Schnell, program director for the non-profit Housing North, says even the loss of a few places for year-round residents has a big impact on who can afford to live in the community.

Recently, a man posted a rental house in Boyne City. Schnell said that by the next day 170 people had filled out applications.

“The only people who find accommodation after a few months of searching are people who call on acquaintances or retirees from the companies they work for and who open basements for them to live in, just so that they have something for a period of time, ”he says.

The State Senate may soon vote on Bill 4722, which says communities must allow up to 30% of their housing stock to be used as vacation rentals.

“It’s hard to imagine the devastation this would have,” says Schnell. “It would be almost impossible for the local workforce to afford to live in this community. “

If the bill passes, he believes other programs to increase housing, such as subsidizing construction costs, would also be affected.

“The supply will be so low, the demand will be so high that it becomes even more difficult for them to justify the investment of taxpayer dollars,” Schnell said.

But other people in Boyne City think short-term rentals are a great benefit to the community.

Mike Castiglione is the owner of Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen. His business has had a successful summer with more visitors to the north and he now plans to expand his restaurant business and open a bar.

Taylor wizner

Mike Castiglione is the owner of Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen. He says the increase in the number of visitors staying in vacation rentals has led to one of his most successful summers in five years.

“You like to see more local families in town,” says Castiglione. “But you need tourists to come and bring in the money to support local businesses as well as to keep this city growing and to keep jobs for people year round.”

Still, Castiglione sees how difficult it is for his staff to get around, as they can’t afford anything in town. He thinks the solution is to build more houses, but admits the high construction costs are making it difficult right now.

Vacation rental operators like Lindsay Verwys say there aren’t enough places to accommodate people who want to come to the Boyne City area.

“Even if every house in Boyne City turned into a rental, more would be needed. We don’t have hotels. We have a nice little one here and we have condos, ”says Verwys.

Verwys operates 18 vacation properties through its Boyneland Vacation Rentals company. She owns two houses on her block and sometimes she rents the front of her house to vacationers.

Most of the houses that Verwys manages are seasonal and with her business she employs five people. The way she sees it, she benefits her community.

“People will always buy products from outside the area because housing is relatively cheap here compared to a Chicago suburb,” Verwys said. “They can have a house on the lake or near the lake and then they will buy it and it will be vacant out of season.”

This summer, a handful of residents asked the city to consider regulating short-term rentals.

Sharon MacJennett was one of them. She says her residential neighborhood near Lake Charlevoix now looks like a commercial district, with just about every other home in her block a vacation rental.

“At one point you knew your neighbors, you knew their children, you knew the names of the dogs. We saw children playing in the street. That whole idea of ​​a neighborhood is gone, ”says MacJennett.

She says visitors are encroaching on her property and leaving beer bottles in her yard.

The city spent $ 7,000 to hire a company to find out how many vacation rentals were working and where they are located.

Boyne City manager Michael Cain now says they’re waiting to see what Lansing decides. Cain says residents want to share the city’s offerings with visitors, but they also want to make sure it can remain the tight-knit community they love.

“Whatever happens in the future, we want to make sure we’re Boyne City and not just Anyplace, USA.”

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