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COMMENTARY: Las Vegas should back off efforts to ban short-term rentals

Las Vegas City Planning Commission hearings are usually dull affairs. But it was a different story recently when more than 100 residents packed into a hearing room to oppose an ordinance that would eliminate short-term home rentals.

Their outrage was well placed.

Over the years, short-term home rentals have become a great way for local residents to make a few bucks on the side. And for tourists, short-term home rentals are an attractive alternative to staying at pricey hotels. In a town where “the house always wins,” this may be the only time the house wins and the customer wins, too.

But the fight is about more than money. It’s also about supporting the sharing economy, an economic system where goods and services are shared between private individuals. In just a few short years, the sharing economy has grown in popularity due to its flexibility, efficiency and convenience. Today, consumers can order a car service, get a dogwalker or have someone pick up their laundry — all in a matter of minutes. It’s why the sharing economy will help increase global revenues to $335 billion by 2025, according to one estimate.

One resident speaking up in support of short-term home rentals at the commission meeting said, “We’ve been hosting since 2010. We’ve hosted people from all over the world, authors, in our historic home. We’re proud to show off Vegas.”

Unfortunately, the impassioned plea fell on deaf ears. The commission voted to end short-term home rentals by a vote of 4-3.

And just last week, the Las Vegas City Council approved tightening restrictions on short-term rentals.

The results are disappointing. After all, why should government get in the way of an individual (or a family) looking to make additional income renting out their home for a short period of time? It’s an especially helpful option for someone between jobs, or for a person not earning enough income to pay the bills.

They include folks such as Heather Wyatt, who was devastated to learn of the commission’s ruling. “This is a job,” she said, “and they came into my house and fired me.”

Tourists and visitors to Las Vegas benefit from short-term home rentals, too. Besides the real possibility of saving money by opting for a short-term home rental over a traditional hotel room, some visitors to the city may want to stay in a quieter place far removed from the bright lights of the Strip.

Short-term home rental opponents point to noise complaints and a lack of regulations. But for more than a year, the city has been requiring would-be renters to obtain a special permit before renting out their homes to guests. This has helped to reduce noise complaints and weed out bad actors.

The continued opposition points to a less-edifying justification for that stance — some folks don’t want the competition. Backed by powerful special interest groups bent on limiting choices for visitors, eliminating short-term home rentals will also get rid of an important source of income for many Las Vegas residents and shut off the option for everyone. For those with limited means, a trip to the Entertainment Capital of the World may become cost-prohibitive.

Instead of erecting barriers to opportunity, city officials should remove them and make it easier to exchange goods and services. That’s the spirit that made Las Vegas, and it’s the hallmark of a society of mutual benefit. And it is one worth preserving for future generations.

Marcos Lopez is the Nevada field director at Americans for Prosperity.

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