County commissioners are considering increasing the lodging tax to help fund new jail costs at their meeting Wednesday. This is a bad idea.
The intent behind the collection and use of lodging taxes is to develop tourism and the larger revenue base it brings into a community. Only a small amount of the lodging tax collected is allowed to pass through to the general fund. This proposal is shortsighted with its singular focus on the end use of these pass-through dollars, rather than how to derive a better return for tourism development. This harms both taxpayers and the legally operating small businesses in our area.
The bigger problem with this issue, however, relates to affordable housing.
The continuing conversion of housing rentals to vacation rentals is significantly worsening the already scarce affordable housing market in our area. This proposal exacerbates the problem by encouraging the county to keep, rather than reduce or limit, short-term vacation rentals in the housing market.
If you’re going to consider raising the lodging tax, a better idea would be to increase the tax on only short-term vacation rentals and use this extra revenue to mitigate the worsening affordable housing crisis by funding affordable housing solutions. The county estimates the new tax will generate $1.4 million annually. This is represents $420,000 annually that could be used to help solve our affordable housing crisis. This would help many individuals stay and invest in our communities long-term and also assist area business struggling to find and keep employees.
To combat the housing crisis, the further erosion of our communities, and the shift to what is rapidly becoming a transient workforce in our area, short-term vacation rentals must be limited and more housing must be built. But this proposed use of lodging tax will only encourage the county to keep more short-term vacation rentals on the market.
Find a different way to fund increased jail costs. The county should not risk becoming a lodging-tax junkie in order to expand the general fund while complicating the affordable housing crisis in our area.
Owner, Arch Cape Inn and Retreat
Former Clatsop County planning commissioner