Take action against short-term rentals

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To the Editor:

Greetings. At the Tisbury town meeting last week, during the discussion of the article to “create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank,” there was mention by proponents and opponents of this proposal that, moving forward, more community discussion should be encouraged for additional thoughts and ideas regarding creating more housing for the residents of our Island.
We would like to share our thoughts on creating more affordable housing units that could have a significant impact on our present housing crisis. Presently, there are hundreds of homes for rent on Airbnb for Martha’s Vineyard on a short-term basis. In Tisbury, where I reside, my wife and I have an owner-operated bed and breakfast, the Look Inn … for over 28 years providing reasonably priced rates for our guests. In our neighborhood there are many, many homes listed on Airbnb and other rental sites. We believe that these rental properties should be subject to the same required licensure and inspection (health, fire, and building) and income reporting as all hotels and lodging facilities are presently. These inspections are important for the health and safety of our guests, and are further required by our liability insurance carrier. A significant number of the homes listed on rental sites are not owner-occupied throughout the year, and many are rented by management companies for short-term rentals and are investment properties.
We suggest the following to help create more homes, apartments, guesthouses, etc. for rent throughout the Island. Selectmen in towns should establish as law for all Airbnb and other rental companies: 1) that all short-term rental properties may only be rented by Island/town residents. Short-term rentals are defined as rentals under six months; 2) that all short-term rentals may only be rented with the owner being present on the property during rentals. Many, if not most, of the homes that we have seen on these websites are not owner-occupied. We contend that if the aforementioned rules are applied, many of these homes would then go on a six-month or yearly rental basis … and, over time, the market rental rates would decrease as there would be more long-term housing available. Other communities throughout the country have taken this approach to ease their housing burden.
We also believe that the Island towns should create more financial and tax incentives for property owners to rent space for year-round occupants. At our inn, we rent one of our spaces to a low-income employee of our hospital. We could have rented this room for two to three months in the summer and received more dollars than doing an annual rental. We believe that we did the right thing for our tennant and our community.|
The challenge is to create more housing opportunities with the existing housing structures … of which there are many on Martha’s Vineyard. Thought, action … results. Onward!

Frederick Rundlet and Catherine Keller
Tisbury