I recognize that the topic of short-term-rentals (STRs) can prompt apprehension accompanied by images of noise, traffic and general disruption. Some may even have a “not-in-my neighborhood” response. I get that. However, I want to propose an alternative view specifically about the Homestay STR model.

Sanctioned by the Coastal Commission and formalized by the city of Carpinteria in 2018, Homestays were one of two short-term-rental models approved to promote affordable public coastal access. “Homestay STRs” are vastly different from the other, more common “Vacation STR.” Homestays are the only option allowed in single-family residential neighborhoods, thus amplifying the need for sensitivity and respect for surrounding neighbors. The homestay licensee is required to own and reside on the property, directly supervise guest stays and collect TOT (city tax) for stays under 31 days.

We retired here two and a half years ago after renting our Carpinteria home since 2004. As retirees facing increased housing expenses, we researched and obtained a Homestay STR license. 

Here is how our Homestay model differs from the traditional vacation STR: We are not corporate investors or absentee property owners. We are proud homeowners and residents. For us, it is the ideal flexible model. We can host our family and friends, but also use the space to supplement our retirement income.

We only rent to couples or singles. No groups. Our rental never exceeds the legal limit of four. Singles and couples work best for us and for the tranquility of the neighborhood. We prescreen guests and can decline if we believe there is a fit issue.

We greet and orient each guest no matter what time they arrive. Guests become accustomed to our presence. Parties or the art of “sneaking people in” do not exist with our model. Our exterior cameras help too.

Ninety-five percent of our guests are older adults. Being close to the railroad, we opt to not have guests with children due to safety concerns.

Although there was understandable suspicion from some neighbors, much of the anticipatory anxiety dissipated after seeing how we operate our Homestay. We regularly seek input from our neighbors and provide them with our contact information. Now, many neighbors use us as a resource for visiting friends or family. 

Some other considerations: This may be an untapped perk for older adults. According to the 2020 census, over 20% of Carpinteria residents are over 65. Seventy percent of them have a median yearly income of less than $50,000, suggesting many are on fixed incomes. Over 72% of Carpinteria seniors own their own home. The flexibility to use the unused space as a short-term or longer-term room rental would be an astounding advantage.

This can also apply to the young homeowner or workforce resident faced with affordability concerns. Unlike Vacation STRs, the homestay option, in effect, can serve to improve the housing stock by assisting older adults and working class manage the cost of housing. 

So, what can we do differently? Older adults may benefit from a resource that offers guidance about shared housing options. Treat the Homestay concept as distinctly different from vacation STRs. I have noted the differences above. Since policies were established in 2018 there remains only four homestays in Carpinteria. Why the model is underutilized seems worthy of further research. 

I am not advocating for any radical proliferation of homestays… guidelines, license limits and accountability should remain priorities without question. Yearly inspections, as previously recommended to the Carpinteria City Council, would be beneficial.

I am not aware of an organization that represents the local STR industry. Ongoing input from STR owners could help the city to assess what works, what could work better and how legal STRs can work to meet the city’s ambiance objectives. 

The STR policy, first written in 2018 to address the management of Carpinteria STRs, has been considered a model for others to emulate. It was written carefully to address the realities and risks of an untamed threat to the community. However, I believe part of those policies were grounded on inexperience and assumption, particularly as it applied to homestays. One missing factor not considered is the impact of the conscientious homeowner. Fear of disruption, large groups and parking impacts are minimized with active homeowner participation. I believe the ordinance should be revisited once again, this time using practical experience, stakeholder input (community and homeowner) and research rather than misguided fear. 

Try to keep an open mind about the potential for Homestays as an option particularly for local older adults, workforce residents (at least those remaining) and other residents just trying to sustain an affordable lifestyle. 

It is my hope that the Homestay model not be so severely stigmatized. It is a viable and responsible option that prioritizes the serenity of neighborhoods while also contributing to many residents’ ability to adapt to the challenges of a rapidly changing economic landscape.



Scott Barash is a Carpinteria homeowner and Homestay STR licensee. Interested in talking about matters related to Carpinteria? Email editor@coastalview.com. 

(3) comments


They don't belong in neighborhoods. Period. It's a hotel no matter what you call it. I got to spend my Saturday evening watching as the group next door to us took selfies on my yard for over an hour, and then they played music all evening. Bringing people who dont care about our town into our neighborhoods is not fair to the citizens. I bought a house in a quiet neighborhood and now we have two hotels on either side of us, a literal constant flow of people (and litter), and parking is often clogged up because of the large groups that come. 1st world problems I know, but it's bs that we have to deal with this. If you are hosting an airbnb you are the problem, and a nuisance to your neighbors


All noble goals. My takeaway however is that you are excluding kids because of some perceived threat from the train. It comes off as exclusionary I suspect as your clientele is quiet and fits your needs. If the rents are fully reported and the TOT's go to the city then better.


I agree with the sentiment that this comes off as exclusionary - although what I think what the author is trying to do here is acknowledge and appease some of the concerns I have also heard from some of the other community members. The noise/traffic concerns I have all heard before.

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