Hiking taxes on short-term rentals will harm regular Californians, not corporations

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OPINION – Gov. Gavin Newsom recently rejected the idea of a tax hike on Californians to balance the state budget. So, why is Senator Monique Limon considering the idea of taxing people who stay in short-term rentals and burdening regular Californians who share their home?

Sharing my home with traveling guests and families has been my only source of income since I was let go from my high paying job about 10 years ago. At the time, I was a single mom with elderly parents and was so distraught from losing my job I felt lost. The thought of losing my dream home and life that I struggled to build was devastating.

A friend of mine suggested offhandedly that I check out this new company that makes it easy to earn extra money hosting travelers, Airbnb. She thought, because I loved having people over and always made my guests feel welcomed, that sharing my home would be something to tide me over until another job came along. Having never stayed at a short-term vacation rental at the time and not really knowing much about Airbnb, I created a listing for my home in Ventura – 45 minutes later I had my first booking for the next day.

Nine years later, I’ve hosted guests from all seven continents to families from all over California, have over 600 five star reviews, and am an Airbnb Host Community Leader representing Santa Barbara and Ventura County. Being a short-term rental host on Airbnb has paid my mortgage, every month – for nine years. I don’t make a lot of profit but all of my bills are paid, and I have just enough to keep my front yard looking pretty.

Right now, the life I’ve worked hard to build and maintain is in jeopardy again because of SB 584 – an outrageous 15% tax on consumers proposed by my state Senator that targets Californians like me who share their home to earn extra income.

This tax would create a terribly unfair advantage for big hotel companies, making it impossible for local hosts like me to compete.

The last few weeks I’ve heard members of our Legislature discuss this excessive tax on short-term rental stays and how it could help create a new affordable housing fund for the state. While I support our lawmakers’ efforts to help boost much needed affordable housing in our communities, I have yet to hear them articulate why they want to place an additional tax burden on California homeowners. The narrative I’ve heard — the tax will only affect big commercial investors – is far from reality.

The reality is, this is another tax on regular people and families seeking affordable lodging options when traveling for vacation or business. Most of my guests book with me because it’s more affordable than a hotel – a majority of whom are families from California wanting more space to accommodate their kids. This additional cost to book would make traveling more expensive for them and put the financial burden on us both.

For me, the reality is more grim. This tax would create a terribly unfair advantage for big hotel companies, making it impossible for local hosts like me to compete. Adding  a 15% tax to my guest fees would sink me. I would be forced into a corner with two options, either lower my already affordable prices to compete with hotel chains or do nothing and lose guests who can’t afford the additional 15% to their bill to hotels.  Less supplemental income means I would have a hard time making my mortgage payments, and I fear I could lose my home to foreclosure and be a 60-year-old with a high school level education looking for a job.

I voted for Senator Limon and had respect for all of her work towards uplifting families but I can no longer support her. Now that the bill heads to the Assembly for consideration, I hope our Assemblymembers will see SB 584 for what is– another tax on regular Californians who are trying to keep up with increasing costs of living in the state, and a tax on Californians who prefer short-term rental accommodations.

Sheri Cecil is a local Ventura, California resident and short-term rental host

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