Letter - Barnstable Watch Group Finds Fault with Short Term Rental Survey

from Heather Hunt

Letter to the Editor:

Barnstable Short Term Rental public input survey missing the key consequential question: BarnstableWatch urges residents
to add it to survey responses.

Many coastal, tourist, and other communities across the country have passed short term rental regulations to maintain housing, character of community, and quality of life. The Town of Barnstable is now conducting an online survey to learn what
residents here think of short-term rentals in their neighborhoods. This is a laudable goal. We encourage residents to express their views about the use of homes next door.

The key question:

Q. Should corporate entities and real estate investors be able to buy single family homes in residential neighborhoods and change their use to transient lodging?

BarnstableWatch hoped the Town’s survey would ask one clear question to learn how residents feel homes in their Barnstable neighborhood should be used. The Town has longstanding traditions where Cape families rent their homes to other
families from time to time. That’s very different than investors’ transient lodging accommodations in residential neighborhoods, made easier by platforms like Airbnb. It is important not to blend those two very different uses. 

The Town’s survey does not include that key question. It also eliminated a place for citizen comment at the end of the draft survey. Barnstable Watch urges citizens to answer this key question in the only space for resident comment that will appear in response to a ‘yes’ answer on page 1, question no. 3. 

We also let the Town know “open access” surveys have significant infirmities. Open Access surveys are very different from surveys that randomly select participants to get a representative view of a community. Open Access surveys are
unscientific and easily influenced by those with financial interests and means to reach an audience. For example, companies like Airbnb and HomeAway use communication  channels with their professional “Superhosts” to message locally and the National Association of Realtors has made “talking points” for its broad membership to use in opposing proposed short-term rental regulations.

We appreciate the Town’s public outreach. We encourage citizens to participate in the survey and also to send their views to their Town Councilors. However, we urge caution in basing zoning decisions on open access survey results.

For information about how other coastal communities and vacation destinations regulate Airbnb transient lodging and real estate investment operators, visit: www.BarnstableWatch.com

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