To the editor: I am writing this letter from the perspective of a relative “outsider”, though one with intimate knowledge of the island. I’m native to Nantucket and consider the island my home but have not been involved in the debate over vacation rentals or what you may know as short-term rentals.
The last time I was home was August 2019, prior to the pandemic and significant increase in year-round population. Living abroad, I was limited to reading the local news and hearing from family about town happenings. The two biggest surprises upon returning this past November were the number of people here late in the Fall and observing the slow-motion train wreck that is the vacation rentals debate.
All my life there has been a housing shortage for year-round residents. This seems to be a chief concern of the Town’s governing bodies and is being vigorously addressed. We still need to and will do more. We need to protect what makes Nantucket such a special place – the people of Nantucket.
The housing shortage has little to do with vacation rentals. If vacation rentals were severely restricted or nonexistent, there would no longer be a housing shortage for year-round residents because there would no longer be enough jobs to support the very people most affected by the shortage.
Please take a moment to consider how many local businesses rely on seasonal tourism, how many of your friends benefit in some way from these visitors to our island. Or maybe better yet, try to think of a local business that does not. These local residents and businesses are the same people we consider the backbone of our community and what makes Nantucket such a special place. Why are we talking about potential “solutions” that will only serve to destroy what most of us want to protect?
I say most because from an outsider’s perspective it is apparent that the people who are behind the fight against vacation rentals do not view the housing shortage as their chief concern. It seems a bit of a red herring. The fact that the people steering the narrative on something so integral to our community’s economy have listed the housing shortage last on the list of their stated goals is concerning.
Is it difficult to find parking in the summer? Of course, it is and has been for as long as I’ve been alive.
Are there issues with people renting homes and throwing wild and obnoxious parties? They have occurred but as a very small percentage of the total. Another red herring.
Our growing traffic problem is related to the island’s year-round capacity and not a symptom of short-term rentals.
There have always been pains related to the island population nearly tripling over the peak summer season, but with the pains associated with vacation rentals also comes the livelihood year-round residents depend on.
It is time to take back ownership of this debate. Please stop allowing certain actors to take advantage of a known problem (the housing shortage) in an attempt to satisfy ulterior motives.
Nantucket does have a housing problem. Nantucket does not have a vacation rental problem.
Please vote no to Article 60.