Time For The Facts: Understanding Nantucket’s Housing And Rental Situation

Penny Dey •

How Many Homes Are There? Nantucket has about 9,700 properties where people live. Out of these, around 2,900 have more than one dwelling, such as a main house with a cottage or extra apartment. When we count all these places, we get about 12,600 units. Only 2,325 of these claim the year-round residential tax exemption. These are the owner-occupied year-round properties.

Data Source: Nantucket Assessor

Who Else Owns These Homes?

After we remove the owner-occupied year-round homes and short-term rentals, we are left with 8,517 homes. Most of these are likely owned by people who only come for part of the year or they aren’t used much at all. This group accounts for 68% of all residential properties on island.

Data Source: Nantucket Assessor

What About Rentals?

In 2022, owners of 1,758 properties paid a tax for renting their places for short periods. There’s a rumor that more than 2,500 homes are rented this way, but that’s not true. Also, it’s tough for locals to just rent out their homes during summer because they need to live in them while working to afford living here.

Data source: Massachusetts Department of Revenue

Are Short-Term Rentals Increasing?

Actually, no. The number of homes rented out for short periods is going down, even though 85% of vacation renters stay in such rentals.

Data sources: Massachusetts Department of Revenue, NAREB

Are There More Year-Round Homes Now?

Yes, the year-round population of Nantucket has increased by 40.1% over the last ten years, and the number of homes occupied all year has also gone up. The Nantucket Public Schools are seeing their highest student numbers ever. It's important to note that the markets for vacation rentals and year-round housing are separate. For example, a large five-bedroom house with a pool might be great for tourists, but it's not affordable for someone looking to live there year-round.

Data Sources: US Census, Department of Housing and Community Development, Nantucket Public Schools

How Much Money Does the Town Make from Rentals?

Since 2021, Nantucket has received over $28.7 million from a tax on short-term rentals, paid by vacation renters, not taxpayers. This money helps pay for town expenses like salaries and represents nearly 10% of our yearly budget. Additionally, short-term renters pay local taxes when here, such as the meals tax.

Source: Town of Nantucket Finance Department

What About Homes Owned by Corporations?

Less than 4% of short-term rentals are owned by corporations who own more than one property and don’t live in them. Last year, this was about 60 properties. A Yes vote for Article 60 at this year’s Town Meeting will prohibit any new properties owned strictly by corporations from renting going forward.

Data Source: Process First, NAREB Data

What’s the Difference Between Living and Renting?

Using a home for everyday activities—like sleeping, cooking, and hanging out with family—is the same whether you own the home or rent it. It is also the same whether the rental is for two weeks or longer than a month. This kind of use should not be considered commercial or business-related.

Let’s Settle This

We have the chance to finally resolve the debate about short-term rentals. Let's use common sense and vote to keep allowing people to rent out their homes, a tradition that has been part of Nantucket for a very long time.

Back in 1955, Nantucket established the Historic District Commission to “promote the general welfare... through the preservation and protection of historic buildings, places... and through the benefits resulting to the economy of Nantucket in developing and maintaining its vacation-travel industry…”

Short-term rentals have been around for more than a century and they don't reduce the number of homes available for people who live on Nantucket year-round. When we talk about "short-term rentals," we're referring to the tourism economy that enables year-rounders to afford to live on Nantucket.

Thanks to the vision of those who came before us, Nantucket continues to be a popular vacation spot. Let's not undo more than 100 years of tradition by making our visitors unwelcome.

Please Vote Yes on Article 59!


Penny Dey

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