Who’s Sleeping In Your House Tonight? The Santa Fe Board Of County Commissioners Wants To Know

STR Fellowship of Santa Fe County

Editor’s note: This column is an opinion piece and all references to “the county” are to Santa Fe County. Please note that Los Alamos County Council has been discussing a short-term rental ordinance and has sought the opinions of the community in a public meeting.

Did you know: Santa Fe County officials now have the power to tell you what you can and can’t do in your home, casita, or extra bedroom?
 It’s called a Short-Term Rental Ordinance. Even if you never considered short-term renting, you need to pay attention. This intrusive and illegal law is a threat to every property owner in Santa Fe County.

The County cannot produce a single complaint involving a short-term rental? 
The Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners actually admitted in public hearings held from September 2022 to March 2023 that they “have no data” to support their assertions that short term rentals cause special problems or will turn Santa Fe County into a “transient community.”

The County paid an out-of-state company more than $162,000 to find” evidence justifying their illegal new law? 
The company, Host Compliance, also billed Santa Fe County taxpayers thousands of dollars for services they never actually delivered – including a hotline, an online permitting portal and “enforcement monitoring” – two years before the County even passed the ordinance! 

Short-term rentals are not businesses? The New Mexico State Appellate Court ruled: “Renting a dwelling to people who use it for the purpose of eating, sleeping and other residential purposes does not violate the prohibition on commercial business activity as such terms are commonly understood.” Yet the process for obtaining a short-term rental license is exactly the same as the process for getting a permit to run a home-based shop or art gallery. 

County Land Use officials can impose new zoning rules retroactively – and force you to make costly changes to your property, even if it was built decades ago? 

The Sustainable Land Development Code (SLDC) passed in 2016, but County Land Use officials are using their poor recordkeeping as an excuse to impose this draconian zoning law retroactively. Homeowners have been told they have to pour concrete down bathroom drains, rebuild septic systems and eliminate driveways – even if their property was built long before 2016. 

Zoning laws like the SLDC do not protect public safety? 
The Board of County Commissioners has said multiple times that the SLDC is designed to “protect public safety.” But they are WRONG. The SLDC is a zoning law that governs what you can and can’t do with your property. It has absolutely nothing to do with ensuring a home is safe to occupy. 

The affordable housing problem is not caused by short-term rentals? Actually, the problem is caused by the SLDC and other restrictive zoning laws that limit “density,” which is government-speak for “more places to live.” As a recent article by a leading housing economist put it: “Leaders need to stop picking on short-term rentals and solve the real problem: lack of permits for more rental apartments. Let more rental housing be built and rents will go down.” (“Housing Scapegoat: Short term Rentals Aren’t the Problem,” Forbes, October 6, 2022) 

There are only about 350 short-term rentals in all 1,900 square miles of Santa Fe County?
The unincorporated area of our County is larger than the state of Rhode Island and has more than 32,400 homes. Less than 1% are short-term rentals, yet the County has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to regulate this tiny fraction of homeowners. 

Platforms like Airbnb already collect taxes on short-term rentals – and send them to the City of Santa Fe instead of the County? 
Millions of dollars in Gross Receipts Taxes have been going into the City’s coffers for years, instead of staying in Santa Fe County to pay for much-needed services like trash/recycling transfer stations and road repairs. County officials did nothing to get that money back. 

This law is causing property values to decline? Prospective buyers who cannot obtain a license to short-term rent a home or casita are demanding big price reductions from sellers. Buyers who need short-term rental income to pay the mortgage are walking away from sales contracts. Property values in Santa Fe County are being hit hard. 

The short-term rental ordinance is illegal and unconstitutional?
This ordinance violates your property rights under New Mexico State Law. It violates the 1st, 4th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution – our Bill of Rights. The Commissioners know it, and they don!t care. Hank Hughes says, “We can’t be afraid of people suing.” 

STR owners are suing Santa Fe County to end their illegal short-term rental ordinance? We, the members of the STR Fellowship of Santa Fe County, support the legal action brought by these plaintiffs against the County for its unlawful ordinance. We support property rights for all Santa Fe County residents. We support lawful ordinances. It is our sincere wish that the plaintiffs prevail, and any future attempts by the County to create any regulations are done so in full compliance with our state and federal laws. If you’d like to support this important cause, please go to our GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign at: Fight Santa Fe County’s Unjust STR Ordinance! https://gofund.me/8168f30a