More Berrien County towns oppose short-term rental bill

NOW: More Berrien County towns oppose short-term rental bill

NEW BUFFALO, Mich. — The battle continues in Berrien County over a bill introduced in the State House that would strip local governments of much of the ability to oversee short-term rentals. 

New Buffalo prides itself on being a lakefront oasis that people love to visit in the summertime, but now, only 25 percent of homes in the city belong to full-time residents. 

It’s not people buying second homes that’s the problem, rather those buying in the city just for the sake of renting to vacationers. 

“We started passing a series of ordinances to regulate the growing issues coming with the explosion of short-term rentals,” said Mayor John Humphrey.

New Buffalo already has a waterfront district right around the beach where commercial lodging is allowed, but officials say most homes in residential neighborhoods have been bought by people who aren’t living there, instead, renting it out year-round as a business venture.  

They say that’s having a detrimental impact on the people who chose to make New Buffalo their home. 

“People can’t afford to buy homes here, it’s spiked property values to 3 to 400% of county averages, it affects our schools, businesses get trapped into the cycle of a three-month economy because you don’t have enough residents,” said Mayor Humphrey.

House Bill 4722 was introduced as a way to give more power to homeowners on how they would like to rent their property, claiming it’s not classified as a commercial industry, but many Berrien County municipalities disagree, and say it would remove their power in setting zoning restrictions and regulations for renters. 

In addition to New Buffalo, a handful of other local governments have passed resolutions opposing the bill, including St. Joseph, Three Oaks and Bridgman as well as the Berrien County Board of Commissioners.

Municipal leaders will continue discussions during Best Practices Committee meetings. 

House Bill 4722 had been referred to the Committee on Commerce and Tourism which it has since been sent back to for a second reading.

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