Single Mom of Three: My STR *IS* My Affordable Housing

When I got divorced in 2018-19, I had 3 kids in elementary school in Louisville and NO IDEA how I could afford - as a single mama - to live anywhere near to their home school. Their school was the one stable thing for them at the time of my divorce. My kids and I moved twice (two different 1-2 bedroom apartments in Denver and then Louisville) between 2019 and the fall of 2020. In October 2020 I was finally able to buy my home in Lafayette (Yay, yippie, yahoo!).

I knew the only way I could afford my Lafayette house mortgage was to Air Bnb (STR) a room in my home. I bought my home with that purpose in mind - I would use the guest room to short term rent for part of the days each year, and use it as a guest room for my elderly parents (who sometimes visit from Sacramento) and other friends/family during the other days of the year.

As a newly divorced mom of 3, having an STR was and *is* my affordable housing. If it is taken away, I won't be able to afford my home and I'll likely have to move. I can't afford to live in Lafayette (in a space big enough for me and 3 kids - my house has 3 bedrooms, two of my kids share a room) without it.

I contacted the City right away and asked how I could get a license, registered, start paying the appropriate taxes and following the right rules to STR a room in my home. I was told there were no rules or regulations, but I was given a City of Lafayette business license number, which I display in the front of my house as instructed. I have paid City and State taxes on every single Air BnB stay since I began hosting.

Since my guests share my home with me and my kids, I am very careful about vetting who my guests are. I only allow a max of 2 guests at a time (except for once, when a young couple brought their baby, too). Parking is not an issue; I have a two-car driveway and I only have 1 car. My neighbors and I all know each other and look out for each other. We have an amazing community block. I have never had a complaint.

Many of my guests are elderly- they are grandparents visiting adult kids and grandkids who live in Lafayette or Louisville.

All of my guests are patrons at Lafayette local businesses - I suggest places for them to go, including taco trucks, restaurants, dive bars, breweries, all the colorful, wonderful shops and establishments that our awesome, quirky town has to offer! My guests fall in LOVE with Lafayette!

I also have provided a safe place for LGBTQ+ people to stay. I state clearly in my Air BnB listing that my home is LGBTQ+ friendly, and I've hosted many queer guests who have thanked me personally for making traveling less traumatic and worrisome for them. Chain hotels are not always comfortable for queer or elderly people, and having a comfortable "home" in a residential neighborhood was a huge comfort and asset to them. I felt glad to be of service in this way.

I am a responsible host. I respect my neighbors, I don't allow parties or smoking, I LOVE hosting short term and the flexibility it allows me with how I use my extra bedroom. When my parents come to visit, they have a place to stay and I don't have to worry about that! (As I would have to do if I had a long term tenant).

And finally, having a successful STR takes WORK. I am an Air BnB Superhost and I put in 10-12 hours a week running my STR (in addition to my full time job with a government contractor company). Not everyone who has a space to rent will choose to do an STR, because it's truly a TON of work! There will always be people who would rather rent an unfurnished place to a tenant who signs a year-long lease. It's a FALSE statement that STRs significantly take away from the long term rental housing market; I have seen no actual or anecdotal data supporting this "belief."

I have seen the ways that responsible hosts and successful STRs contribute positively to affordable housing for us hosts, improve housing diversity and options for our community, and deserve to be legal and part of our housing eco-system in Lafayette.

I do NOT agree that outside investors who don't live here should be able to operate STRs in our town where they don't live. BUT... if you live here and own a home and want to rent out part of it for short term stays, as I do, I believe you should be able to do that legally and responsibly in Lafayette.

Thanks for reading my story.

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