Time To Stop The Bleeding

Charity Benz •

To the editor,

The first principle of emergency medicine is to stop the bleeding. Nantucket is hemorrhaging attainable neighborhood housing for year-round residents. What interventions to stop the bleeding are being tried? Transfusions of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and town-managed housing projects that never seem to get built. Now, the Town is proposing a permanent override to keep transfusing taxpayer dollars into a patient that is bleeding out.

The Current has now exposed the Copley Group as the voice behind “The Alliance to Protect Nantucket’s’ Economy” warning about the dire economic impact of Article 60. Why shouldn’t they? Article 60 is aimed at their commercial STRs inserted into residential neighborhoods. It’s all about the money – theirs, not ours. And why should they care that they, and others like them, are fueling our unsustainable explosion of growth. They know we, the taxpayers, have to pick up the tab for that.

Let’s be real: commercial STR investment income goes off island and doesn’t fuel our local economy. The Copley Group itself says commercial STRs generate $7 million in tax revenue each year, far less than what is needed to replace the affordable housing we lose to commercial STRs. It is Nantucket taxpayers who are subsidizing commercial STRs by paying for upgrades to our already overburdened infrastructure to accommodate the increased lodging capacity they generate. It is Nantucket taxpayers who are subsidizing commercial STRs by funding initiatives to create housing for the families who service commercial STRs and their transient occupants.

Without Article 60, private commercial STR owners will buy and build more land and houses to rake in big bucks with five figure weekly rental rates. Without voter intervention to stop this, no matter how many public dollars are spent, we will not be able to slow or reverse the real damage being done to Nantucket’s neighborhood housing market by unrestricted private equity investment. If Great Barrington just put a stop to commercial STRs (recently approved by the State according to Nantucket’s town counsel), why can’t we?

So, it's time to do the obvious - apply a tourniquet to this critical patient by passing Article 60 on May 6 at ATM. It will not only halt the bleeding caused by commercial STRs but also grant legal protection to permanent and seasonal residents who responsibly rent their homes for supplemental income that is largely spent here.

The STR work group may come up with proposals to support a healthy housing market and regulate STR’s which Nantucket voters might approve….and it may not.

By passing Article 60 we can literally shove the envelope at the STR work group. If we don’t like what they propose, at least we will have something on the books to start to stanch the bleeding and heal the patient.

Charity Benz

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