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Collier County commissioners on May 14 moved forward with a plan to allow Urban Estates homeowners to rent guesthouses to address a critical shortage of workforce housing. 

The 4-1 vote, which includes a review after one year and a Code Enforcement report, involves homesteaded properties in an area of North Naples west of Collier Boulevard. The county will research how to deduct the tax percentage of the guesthouse to preserve the homestead exemption, proceed with a land-development code amendment and hold public hearings. 

Staff sent 3,558 postcards asking Urban Estates residents to attend meetings or complete online surveys but received only 135 responses. Zoning Director Mike Bosi told commissioners that after the amendment goes through the Development Services Advisory Board, Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners, awareness and participation will increase. 

“Renting of guest houses is a tough ask to get a lot of feedback, but if we’re in the process of amending the code to allow it and it becomes more of a reality, I think you’ll get much more participation,” Bosi said. 

The state estimates the county has a shortfall of about 49,399 affordable housing units. The pilot program idea was suggested by Commissioner Bill McDaniel Jr. and was endorsed by the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, which asked staff to gather residents’ feedback. 

Renting guesthouses for commercial gain is prohibited by the landdevelopment code, which only allows housing relatives or caregivers, with no paid rent, and bars owners from living in the guesthouse while renting out their principal dwelling.  

The code also sets specific parameters for properties that can have guesthouses. Only 393 Urban Estates properties have guest houses and 413 are vacant lots. Commissioners favored limiting rentals to the 1,560 homesteaded properties.  

Bosi said residents understood the full ramifications, that the county couldn’t limit the length of the rental because it’s barred by statute.  

McDaniel “wholeheartedly” supported limiting it to homesteaded properties. Although residents in the Rural Estates area of Golden Gate Estates expressed interest, he noted that the infrastructure isn’t there yet to support a hefty population increase. 

“This is simple economics supply and demand,” McDaniel said. “If we have more units available, the opportunity for housing affordability will inevitably transpire.” 

The market rate for rentals in the area ranges from $4,770 for a two-bedroom unit to $6,323 for five bedrooms.  

Commissioner Burt Saunders, who lives in Urban Estates, said they need to add a review requirement to ensure the county monitors the rentals and the impact to infrastructure. He voted nay, explaining: “If you open this door, you’re going to destroy the quality of life in the Urban Estates.”  

Commissioner Rick LoCastro said he wanted a review to ensure guesthouses weren’t renting for $6,000 or $1 million. 

“It doesn’t necessarily need to be in writing, but when you put it in writing, it shows that we thought about it,” LoCastro said. “We’re not just rubber stamping this and then we’re going to watch it go wild.” 

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