VACATION

Is it time to rein in vacation rentals? Pensacola council may look into rental regulations

Pensacola City Councilman Charles Bare wants to take a closer look at vacation rentals in the city.

Bare is asking the council to hold a workshop to discuss short-term rentals in the city and see what fellow council members think of any enacting regulations around the business.

“One of the things I committed to during this campaign was that I was going to pursue this in doing a workshop and at least get the Council to talk about it,” Bare told the News Journal on Friday.

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Short-term rentals, referred to under Florida law as vacation rentals, are rental units available on websites like Airbnb and VRBO. Some are often second homes rented out for extra income, while other owners may own multiple units and run a full-time rental business.

Bare, who won election to the Council in November, said he’s spoken with several neighborhood groups who are concerned about short-term rentals and compliance with existing city ordinances such as parking in yards or leaving garbage cans on the street.

Florida law prevents municipalities from banning vacation rentals or regulating the required length of stay, but cities can pass regulating the rentals as businesses.

Bare noted that the city of Hollywood, Florida, passed new regulations recently on vacation rentals.

Hollywood’s regulations require each owner to obtain a vacation rental license, and last year added the requirement that vacation rental owners had to install noise detection devices at their property. The regulations also limit parking and require additional trash containers.

Bare said he felt most vacation rental owners are good neighbors, and only a few cause problems.

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VACATION

Vacation homes eat up inventory, deepen income divide in this Michigan county

Running 36 miles along the Lake Huron shoreline Alcona County has prime real estate on the sun rise side of the state. But when temperatures drop and the sand toys are packed, half the homes go vacant.

The county was dubbed a hot vacation county in 2020 by the National Association of Realtors. The rural, northern county of roughly 10,000 people landed in the top ten of the national rankings list and in the top 1% for sales growth, price growth, change in days on market, and the number of seasonal homes.

Its popularity as a part-time destination, however, deepens income divides and creates housing woes in one of Michigan’s poorest counties.

Alcona stood out among vacation hot spots due to its concentration of vacation homes. The report estimated 49.8% of all homes are seasonally vacant. In 2020, median home prices more than doubled. At the start of 2023, the median listing price was $185,000, another 20% year-over-year increase, according to Realtor.com.

This starkly contrasts Alcona County’s demographics.

One in eight people live in poverty, according to the 2020 Census. And one in three people in the county are seniors, leaving little room for upward mobility.

You don’t have to look at numbers to see the divide, although they tell a clear story — list prices ranged from $4,500 to $1.2 million, according to Realtor.com data from January 2023.

Along the lakeshore, homes in the city of Harrisville, the county seat, are expansive, modern and tidy. There are 71 boat slips in the marina, half of which are occupied by seasonal boaters, and electric-vehicle chargers in the parking lot. The vacationers from downstate have brought their metro amenities with them.

But just one block inland and the cottages grow older and smaller.

There’s not much middle ground, said Matt

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VACATION

Charleston employees could be getting paid family leave for the first time in 2023 | News

Barring any last-minute changes to Charleston’s 2023 budget, all city employees will be eligible for paid family leave for the first time next year.

“The people who are most affected, they have the least amount of time to do something about it,” said Jennet Robinson Alterman, chair of Charleston Women’s Commission. “Kudos to the City Council for doing this.”

The women’s commission has been pushing the city to adopt the policy since 2019, but plans were derailed during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Currently, employees are protected by federal paid leave policies which allow them to take up to 12 weeks off after the birth or adoption of a child. But that policy doesn’t require employers to pay for that time off.

Instead, Charleston employees are encouraged to use all available sick leave and vacation time to maintain their pay during family leave. They could also sign up for short term disability, which covers 60 percent of an employee’s pay.

Charleston City Council voted Nov. 8 to include the policy in next year’s budget. The full budget goes for its first vote Dec. 8. 

Based on the number of employees who took short term disability leave in 2019, the year before the pandemic upended schedules, the human resources department estimates the city could be on the hook for about $33,000 in paid family leave annually if the policy is enacted.

But because paid leave will likely be more popular than short term disability, that figure is probably low, said Heather Pope, Charleston’s deputy director of human resources.

“We know that our estimate is going to be on the low end … But it’s hard to predict how many people will have babies,” she said, and that it’s likely that the paid leave will be more popular, resulting in more employees

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HOTEL

Hotels are making up ground on short-term rentals: Travel Weekly

While short-term rentals enjoyed a clear advantage over traditional hotels throughout much of the pandemic, demand for rentals has leveled off and hotels are retaking some lost ground by competing in the space on their own terms. 

A recent report from STR and short-term rental analytics company AirDNA showed that impact from the pandemic caused short-term rental market share to spike to its highest level in mid-2020, when the segment ballooned to nearly 17% of all accommodation demand in the U.S.

By January 2022, however, that share had slipped to 12.7% — a level roughly 3% below the trend line that STR and AirDNA had projected based on their tracking of the segment’s growth trajectory between 2018 and early 2020. 

“The current linear growth trend from 2021 to present has a slope significantly flatter than that of the pre-pandemic trend,” the report said.

STR and AirDNA said a sudden contraction of short-term rental supply in urban markets hit harder by Covid-related challenges might have been a cause of the flatter slope. Also, a narrowing price gap between short-term rentals and hotels might have been a factor. In suburban U.S. markets, for example, the report found that the average daily rate for short-term rentals surpassed that of hotels this year. 

But another potential factor is that hotels have emerged from the pandemic more agile and are giving short-term rentals a run for their money.

Hotel startups make a play 

Traditional hospitality stalwarts like Marriott International are making a bigger play for the short-term rental guest. Building on the success of its Homes & Villas by Marriott International vacation rental platform, the company recently launched Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy, a serviced-apartment brand in the upper-upscale and luxury categories.

The accommodations will include a separate living room and bedroom, a full

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VACATION

How To Plan for Parental Leave if Your Company Does Not Offer It

Portra / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Portra / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Despite more than 100 years of activism calling for paid parental leave, millions of parents in the United States still have to choose between having children and earning a living. According to the World Policy Center, the U.S. is one of just eight countries on Earth that don’t allow new mothers — and in many cases, fathers — to collect at least a portion of their paychecks while caring for and bonding with their newborns.

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In guaranteeing nothing at all, the wealthiest country in the world joins only Papua New Guinea, Suriname and five tiny Pacific island nations that most people couldn’t point to on a map — Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Tonga.

Iran gives new parents 26-51.9 weeks of paid leave. In Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Somalia, Colombia and Turkey it’s 14-25.9 weeks. Russia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and most of Europe give new parents 52 weeks or more.

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees 12 weeks of family leave, but the leave is unpaid and it applies only to public agencies and companies with more than 50 employees — and days you take off during pregnancy count against your 12 weeks.

If you decide to have children in the United States, you’re mostly on your own — unless you’re one of the lucky 23% of workers who the BLS says has access to paid family leave.

For the other 77%, here’s how you can plan, prepare and try to find a balance between work and life.

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VACATION

Vacation home rentals rise in Wilmington area despite higher service fees

The home owned by the Matusic family is one of many managed by Vacasa.

As more tourists continue to visit Topsail Island to enjoy the beach and relaxation, homeowners like Renee Matusic are providing them a place a place to stay, with views of ocean waves crashing against the shore.

For homeowners like Matusic, who lives in West Virginia, the upkeep is expensive. One bill is $15,000 for flood insurance. So, while being seven hours away, she wants to leave her family home investment in good hands.

“I wouldn’t say anybody who owns property there is a zillionaire,” she said. “We’re basically just hoping at some point to pay these monsters off. And then, we might make some money on them. But in the meantime, we’re still paying our mortgages and expenses.”

She is relying on Vacasa to manage the property. The Portland, Oregon-based business is making footprints in the Topsail region and the island shared by towns in Pender and Onslow counties. It acquired vacation rentals from Treasure Realty, a real estate business with offices in Surf City and Sneads Ferry. It’s known as the top full-service vacation rental management company in North America. Vacasa manages more than 35,000 homes in 35 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, Belize, and Costa Rica. More than 3 million guests check in each year.

“We’re really happy with them,” she said. “I have a great management team, who literally, I feel go above and beyond for our house.” Matusic said about working with Vacasa last year after they purchased the TurnKey Vacation Rentals. “I’ve had success with keeping the house booked.”

But some people who enjoyed Topsail Island last summer are questioning the higher costs coming with the change on social media posts. A couple of them include fees for cleaning and booking. With rising costs in the economy, many professionals said it’s something that comes with the

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