Santa Cruz County, CA

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Airbnb in Santa Cruz County, CA

Santa Cruz has been a beloved tourist destination for more than a century, and over those decades homeowners have rented their houses and cottages to summer tourists. The story is told that locals originally welcomed the founding of a University of California campus in Santa Cruz because it was thought that students would rent the apartment houses and cottages that were otherwise empty all winter.

But that was 50 years ago. The 1989 earthquake removed hundreds of antiquated housing units. In the next generation the same population pressures elsewhere in California became especially critical in Santa Cruz county which is geographically isolated, with a political landscape that is not friendly to housing developments--particularly in the three northern incorporated cities. Over the last 30 years, the unincorporated areas between Santa Cruz and Watsonville absorbed most of the new housing demanded.

Today, tourism and agriculture are the two largest industries in the county, with tourism being more important along the coastal areas of "north county." The city of Watsonville, to the south and east is culturally and politically more aligned with rural Monterey County; and for the most part is also left out of the benefits of a tourism economy.

And the benefits are considerable. For municipalities, the collection of the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) raises $14M annually. Tourism itself contributes $700M to the county.

The City of Santa Cruz in particular has long been active in balancing a need to support tourism with providing locals with affordable housing. In one successful effort, in 2003, Santa Cruz passed ordinances which eased restrictions on "Accessory Dwelling Units." These ADUs gave home owners a path forward to convert illegally remodeled garages and the backyard cottages that had long served as both tourist and student housing. Similar ordinances were also passed by the County Board of Supervisors. The ordinances require that the homeowner live on the property.

In the summer of 2015, both the City and County of Santa Cruz governing bodies considered moratoria on licensing new vacation rentals in light of growing concern that homeowners were converting long-term rental housing to vacation rentals without license or the payment of TOT. Public meetings also discussed the conversion of ADUs to vacation homes advertised in Airbnb.

In late 2015, government staff are studying the steps taken by other California cities, and researching the actual use of services like AirBnB. Critics of the moratoria point to the long-standing practice of homeowners making ends meet by renting out homes to tourists and that this practice is part of the a fabric of Santa Cruz communities. A comparison of the actual practice may tell a different story.

Airbnb data for Santa Cruz County, CA

Inside Airbnb

A conservative occupancy model has been built in order to estimate Occupancy Rates, Income per Month and Nights per Year. More information on the methodolgy of the occupancy model can be found in the disclaimers.

Inside Airbnb: Santa Cruz County, CA uses the following parameters:

If you are a journalist, urban or public policy planner, get the data and analyze if yourself. If you would like your analysis linked to from this site, please contact murray@murraycox.com.

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Airbnb provides NO PUBLIC DATA to help understand the use of their platform and the impact on cities around the world.

Airbnb also provide NO DATA to cities or states to assist them in ensuring that Airbnb hosts and Airbnb are following the local laws.

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How is Airbnb really being used in and affecting your neighborhoods?

Room Type

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shared rooms

Airbnb hosts can list entire homes/apartments, private or shared rooms.

Depending on the room type, availability, and activity, an airbnb listing could be more like a hotel, disruptive for neighbors, taking away housing, and illegal.

Activity

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reviews
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Airbnb guests may leave a review after their stay, and these can be used as an indicator of airbnb activity.

The minimum stay, price and number of reviews have been used to estimate the occupancy rate, the number of nights per year and the income per month for each listing.

How does the income from Airbnb compare to a long-term lease?

Do the number of nights booked per year make it impossible for a listing to be used for residential housing?

And what is renting to a tourist full-time rather than a resident doing to our neighborhoods and cities?

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Availability

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days/year

An Airbnb host can setup a calendar for their listing so that it is only available for a few days or weeks a year.

Other listings are available all year round (except for when it is already booked).

Entire homes or apartments highly available year-round for tourists, probably don't have the owner present, could be illegal, and more importantly, are displacing residents.

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multi-listings

Some Airbnb hosts have multiple listings.

A host may list separate rooms in the same apartment, or multiple apartments or homes available in their entirity.

Hosts with multiple listings are more likely to be running a business, are unlikely to be living in the property, and in violation of most short term rental laws designed to protect residential housing.

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