Short-term taxes could test loyalty of regular visitors


To the Editor:

In response to the excellent article and discussion regarding “Housing on M.V. 101: A primer on our crisis” (Essay, Jan. 30): I have been fortunate to vacation on Martha’s Vineyard in all towns approximately 15 times in the past three or so decades, and continue after these visits to have a great fondness for the beauty, history, and culture of your Island. I am a homeowner in Long Island, N.Y., so that is the extent of my real estate knowledge. Let me provide a few examples of how Long Island, which is an island big as it may be, suffers and at the same time tries to figure out the close relationship and balance between vacation properties and full-time ownership.

I live 25 miles from Manhattan, and chose this area for commuting convenience. Many others, for financial and family reasons, have moved well east of me, even 60 miles from Manhattan, for a property they could afford; their daily one-way commutes can be two hours or more. There is a growing consensus of the middle class here that this island surrounded by three bodies of water is saturated and too expensive. So in stark terms, then, either move or put up with the financial and quality-of-life issues. If we speak to this in the Hamptons and the North Fork here, they want nothing to do with affordable housing. Essentially, “if you cannot pay the financial cost, move.” This sounds similar to what may be happening on M.V. In the summer, the resorts and hotels in the Hamptons actually employ college kids from Europe, and not surprisingly, some well-established renters let them rent their second homes. Nice, except some of the homes are fabulously overcrowded. The locals living year-round are screaming. (As a footnote, I have vacationed in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Prices there have gone through the roof, and too many locals cannot afford to live there — what an irony they are doing all the services for the visitors and wealthy rental home owners.)

My crystal ball does not have a good answer to this common perplexing conundrum other than at some point, if the summer rental season starts to slip here or on M.V. because of exorbitant pricing, then a real discussion of the financial issues will commence.

Case in point, if my one week after Labor Day 2019 rental starts to approach $2,000 for the two of us (before food and ferry), I’ll take a cruise to Bermuda (two of us), then for $1,650 all my meals, activity, etc., will be included. Why pass that veritable bargain up? At some point, pure dollar outlays versus enjoyment will be heavily tested.


Gary Korbel
Long Island


  1. This is a great example of what will happen as long as MV continues to become a more and more expensive place to visit. Visitors will take their vacation dollars and go elsewhere. Rising rents, ferry reservations and cost and now an additional tax are killing the golden goose. The amount of tax paid by vacationers is money that will not be spent in stores and restaurants. Good luck to all the merchants on the Island when their revenue is cut.

    As I have posted before – the smart thing for each town to do this spring is to vote to repeal the local portion of this rental tax that was imposed on each town by the State. We can’t repeal the State portion but if the total tax rate stays at 5.7% then the Vineyard might be OK.

  2. I believe that local officials believe that the Summer people will just keep coming, no matter the cost – a nearly 15% increase is going to slow the traffic down, which will lead to less revenue. Guess that’ one way to end the housing crisis.

    • How many “regular visitors” are a good thing? Presumably but not necessarily, this will slow the increase in tourism dollars, might even reduce. Is this good or bad? Some complain about too many visitors, now some fear there won’t be too many. Go figure.

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