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    Advocacy Toolkit: A Year in Review

    Short-term rental regulations continue to spread across the U.S. from the smallest town to largest state. There will never be a one size fits all method to fighting restrictive regulations. However, uniform strategies and tools are being implemented to help you. VRMA is dedicated to helping members work with policy makers to fight off burdensome rules that can greatly restrict the rental of properties you manage. This year VRMA has had an extensive expansion of their advocacy efforts. Let us recap the new tools and other resources that are now available on the VRMA website (vrma.com/advocacy).

    During the first half of 2016, the VRMA Government Affairs committee developed a comprehensive approach to fighting off restrictive regulations nationwide. This approach was compiled into a strategic plan that addresses a public policy agenda, enhanced communication, membership engagement tools and developing cross organizational relationships to further our public policy goals. This is all being encapsulated into an advocacy toolkit.

    The first introduction of the toolkit transpired with the release of the local and state issue tracking tools. These tools allow members to become informed on rental regulation proposals that may impact communities in which they have properties. This tracking also allows VRMA to notify members of larger scale impending regulations, and to better engage members in the advocacy alert center.

    Issue alerts are compiled into the advocacy alert center which features various alerts to address issues around the U.S. The enhanced tool provides the VRMA another means of communicating with members regarding impending regulations. The alert center also allows members to write letters directly to their public officials and provides a method for members to convey a consistent message from VRMA, in addition to your own view points on the issues. Many cities — including Seattle, Denver, and Fort Lauderdale — and several states have had issue alerts sent to members. These alerts produced several thousand responses from members and allowed the VRMA to contact over 2,000 public officials. This tool was also utilized to send messages to U.S. Senators who requested an investigation of the short-term rental marketplace. These messages assisted VRMA staff to conduct follow-up meetings with Senator Feinstein (CA) and Senator Schatz (HI) to further discuss the issue.

    The second phase of the VRMA Advocacy Toolkit was to develop tools to educate and help members in fighting local restrictive regulations. This has developed into an advocacy video library featuring industry and political experts, which are located in the Advocacy Center of the VRMA website. It also contained an expanded educational element with a webinar and outside expert sessions at the National Conference.

    The National Conference showcased two breakout sessions and a general session dedicated to advocacy. Matt Curtis, senior director of Global Affairs and Public Policy at HomeAway, board member and chair of the Government Relations Committee, moderated two panel discussions; Mike Martinez, former Austin City council member and Mark Littlefield, principal at Littlefield Consulting an Austin-based political consulting firm, discussed tactics and strategies to engage City Hall in a productive dialogue that ensures fair and effective rules. The two political strategists provided detailed analysis of what works to engage City Hall and the local political landscape.

    The second session was led by property rights and industry advocates Timothy Sandefur, vice-president for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute, Robert St. Genis, executive director, Los Angeles Short-Term Rental Alliance, and Matt Kiessling, vice-president, Short-Term Rental Policy at the Travel Technology Association. These two experts discussed how you can fight for your industry and for the property rights of the homes you represent by preventing local bans on short-term rentals through local and regional alliances. They provided details about efforts in various states to level the playing field for managers and property owners. This included an exploration into the passing of a statewide short-term rental standards bill in Arizona.

    Finally, the general session was capped with special guest Arizona State Senator Debbie Lesko, the sponsor of Senate Bill (SB) 1350, the Arizona statewide short-term rental standards bill. Her bill was the first law of its kind in the country and ensures that property use restrictions are limited to true health and safety concerns. Senator Lesko’s remarks explained the origin of SB 1350. She further shared her experiences in the bill’s passing by providing valuable insight into the strategy that was in place and the coalition building that was needed to see the bill pass.

    In addition to the expanded educational opportunities centered around advocacy, the National Policy Agenda was unveiled at the National Conference. This document, which is available in the advocacy center, is the official policy platform of VRMA on issues related to short-term rentals and other National Policy considerations that affect the vacation rental industry. The National Policy Agenda is for members to share with policy makers and others to demonstrate that we, as an industry, are not opposed to regulation but, rather, we believe in reasonable considerations that should be taken into account when developing short-term rental rules.

    There is more to come as the year ends. Issue alerts and other advocacy information are available outside our website and in two new social medial channels, @VRMAadvocacy on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, VRMA will be working on efforts to organize new alliances in states as we move into the 2017 legislative sessions. This will also entail reaching out to allied organizations to build coalitions to work on statewide standards legislation to protect property rights and the vacation rental industry. Continue to watch for updates on advocacy tools and resources as well as issue alerts. Your interaction with these tools will help advance the call for sensible regulations of the vacation rental industry. 

    Greg Holcomb is the government relations senior coordinator for VRMA.

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