To the editor: For some time now, I’ve been watching the progress of the Short-Term Rental Workgroup as this dedicated group of volunteers debated and decided upon a very important and difficult area: regulations for the island’s short-term rentals (STRs). As someone who has struggled to afford a house on Nantucket, but also has an ancestral home that we are trying to keep in our extended family, I understand both sides of this issue.
Having carefully examined the proposed regulations, I believe that the STRWG has found a “sweet spot” that protects existing property rights while putting reasonable and effective limits on the future growth of STRs.
Here’s how the regulations protect property rights: Current homeowners will be allowed to rent out an STR as before, limited by 9 changes of occupancy in the high season of July and August. If a current owner has more than one STR, they will be allowed to operate each of them. And importantly, the right to rent those properties as STRs can be passed down to heirs.
These regulations will confirm the already-recognized legality of short-term rentals, preserving economic opportunities for Islanders to keep their homes while protecting them from lawsuits. They will be helpful to our local economy, as well as our ability to support the Nantucket community through excise tax revenue.
Looking at the other side of the coin, here’s how the regulations set reasonable limits on STRs: Corporations will be prohibited from operating new STRs. There will be a limit of one STR per owner for new STRS. New STRs after November 7, 2023, will also be limited to only 4 changes of occupancy in high season—thus discouraging “investor-only” STRs and preserving housing for year-round or seasonal residents. This will also help to control the neighborhood “churn” from frequent turnovers that can be disruptive in the summer months. The Select Board already approved regulations that could fine STR owners or prevent them from renting if there are multiple noise violations.
Taken together, these regulations are a common-sense solution to the contentious issue of STRs. They recognize our long history of home rental on Nantucket while, at the same time, is a step in the right direction of protecting the housing stock for residents. The fact that they were able to reach consensus on this contentious issue is commendable and what we asked the STRWG to do. A “no” vote would put us back to square one with no regulations in place to protect our island, regardless of what side you are on.
I hope you will join me in supporting the regulations by voting yes at the Special Town Meeting on November 7.