Homeowners in the Savannah area want a review of a short-term ordinance that was put into place late last year. The ordinance prohibits homeowners from renting their Savannah houses or rooms to guests. The review request arrives as zoning officials are getting ready to meet leaders in the neighborhoods to discuss allowing owner-occupied rentals with one room. Ardsley Park resident, Rabbi Arnold Belzer, has been trying to promote an online petition that calls for a moratorium of one year on enforcing the ordinance. Belzer said that prohibiting renting for less than 30 days is not fair to those homeowners who are outside of the mixed-use zones that now allow such rentals.
The areas where this is permitted are largely in the city’s historic district and other downtown locales. Because the Savannah real estate in this area is largely of higher value, it leaves out homeowners with lower income that live nearby. These homeowners, including Belzer, are interested in renting out rooms in their homes to help make ends meant. This largely applies to vacationing guests who may need a reasonable place to stay for less than 30 days. Belzer’s petition is meant to delay enforcement so that the people involved can have the conversation about whether to allow short-term rentals in these areas. It’s possible that some of the zoning could have to do with the perception that Savannah homes for sale will have lower value with renting in the area, even just short-term renting.
On the other hand, the Savannah real estate market is growing and there are potentially people buying houses for investment purposes and to rent out their Savannah houses or rooms as vacation rentals. Such activity is not necessarily limited to the downtown area as being on the outskirts allows such homeowners to present guests with potentially lower prices than directly downtown rentals. If such discrimination continues, it’s possible that it will affect Savannah homes for sale the other way, i.e. buyers not wanting houses in areas with rental restrictions.
The Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission is currently considering an amendment that would allow owner occupants of one unit to rent their rooms or unit out in zones where they are currently not allowed. This consideration came after a homeowner put forth a petition late last year to be able to rent one room in her house to short-term guests. The house was located in a zone where such rentals are currently not allowed. Even though the petition had the verbal support of some commissioners, the request was postponed. The reason was that they wanted to have time to look at the larger issues of allowing such rentals and what their impact would be on the communities where such Savannah houses are located.
Currently a meeting is being organized with neighborhood presidents and it’s possible that a zoning amendment could be considered by the commission in June. If it was approved there, it would then have to be looked at by the Savannah City Council for final approval. Not everyone signing Belzer’s petition is solely supporting rentals of owner-occupied one units and the petition itself does not specify. Belzer said he doesn’t oppose rentals of entire homes as long as they follow a high standard of approval. Tamara Holt, a resident of Pine Gardens, says that she supports and signed the petition because she believes that the ordinance is actually a violation of the rights of homeowners. She tried to rent her house to travelers on weekends when she moved to her summer home in Maine. However, when she applied to rent her house on a short-term basis, it was denied due to her house being in one of the zones where it’s not allowed.
The city has actually received 261 applications for short-term rentals between January and April. Of those, 65 are still in the reviewing process, while 196 were approved. The staff is also trying to contact about 100 rentals that are operating without an approved application. According to Tourism Management and Ambassadorship Department director Bridget Lidy, the reason short-term rentals have been prohibited in areas without mixed-use is because residents wanted to keep neighborhood integrity intact. In other words, areas that do not already contain hotels or other lodging are prohibited from renting short-term.
It remains to be seen whether Savannah real estate will be affected one way or another by this ordinance, but those considering Savannah homes for sale might want to look into whether the house in question is in one of these zones.