Lessons from other resort communities

Discussions on how the Island may handle its short term rentals continue.

Martha's Vineyard planners are looking at other resort towns and how they deal with short term rentals. — Jeremy Driesen


It’s no surprise that the nationwide housing crisis has been especially impactful to year-round Vineyarders. Exacerbating the crisis is the increasing number of short-term rentals that reduce the year-round housing stock. 

As the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank Act moves its way up to the state legislature for consideration, a number of committees and boards on the Island have begun to discuss how to address the housing problem locally.

One of those bodies is the all-Island planning board, which charged its members with defining a scope of study on the Vineyard’s short-term rental boom, and how the towns might be able to suggest possible ordinances and regulations on the short-term rental industry. 

On Wednesday, Laura Silber, Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s housing planner and coordinator for the Coalition to Create the MV Housing Bank (CCMVHB), presented planning board members with a sample range of ordinances seen in other resort communities that have been struggling with similar STR-related issues.

For example, Silber said, a North Lake Tahoe community where 79 percent of its housing inventory is seasonal touts a high percentage of STRs that were negatively impacting the year-round population. That community ultimately opted to enforce a cap on STRs, in addition to outlining owner-occupancy restrictions specifically designed for that community. 

A neighboring town with STR issues chose stricter ordinances, with the main goal of increasing its year-round housing stock. Although that study has not yet been completed, the town is seeing an increase in long-term housing options, Silber said. 

Some communities are now requiring business licenses for STRs, which in turn generate “significant revenue” for the towns, she said, noting that the Vineyard may want to consider that option. 

Hudson, N.Y., and Salem, have put in place STR-related bylaws to prevent becoming resort communities, Silber noted. Some lessons can be taken from nonseasonal communities, and what they’re doing to protect their housing stock and year-round residents. 

Already established resort communities, like the Vineyard, have to work with pre-existing ways of life. For example, Silber said, the Island has a significant history of private homes being used as vacation homes. 

Previous STR regulations proposed on Nantucket, Silber said, “emanated from a private group,” rather than from a grassroots effort. “So the start of that effort did not take into account the needs and desires of the majority of the year-round community and year-round voters,” she said. Later, a reworking of those restrictions seem to be better able to address and represent the year-round population.

However, resort town or not, no two communities are exactly alike. A comprehensive study is crucial, Silber said, in order to fully understand the economic impact STRs are having on the Vineyard and its residents. Only then can regulatory bodies enact policies and ordinances that apply specifically to Martha’s Vineyard. 

Silber advocated for a prioritization of Vineyard residents, noting that the first reiteration of proposed STR bylaws on Nantucket have somewhat struggled to meet the needs of its year-rounders. 

Additionally, Silber briefly touched on a piece of statewide legislation regarding accessory dwelling units (ADU), which has been garnering a fair amount of attention. Increasing ADUs has the support of the incoming governor’s office, Silber said, and is slated to be reintroduced this legislative session. 

With just over half of Vineyard residents being year-round — 51 percent — it behooves Island-based bodies to find solutions that best fit the needs of the community, Silber said. 

The bottom line, Silber said, is that “short-term rentals are being regulated in resort communities.” 

Updated to clarify that Salem and Hudson already have regulations in place and that Nantucket has only proposed regulations.


  1. This meeting lacked any real facts. Let’s not start talking new policies until we establish what’s really going on. Most people representing STR’s on the island would concur that the overall inventory has decreased since Covid. Owners who would rent for most of the summer except for maybe a couple of weeks for themselves are now using their secondary home for longer periods. And rarely do you see corporations buying properties solely for STR’s. It’s just not happening.

    • Thank you for being reasonable John! The island needs to get away from the mindset that adding new taxes and regulations will help elevate the housing crisis.

    • John– If anybody is keeping score at home, I AGREE . You have articulately defined the issue and a major cause of it.
      So what can we do ?
      For those of you keeping score at home, I think you can safely put your score card away if Mr.Axel answers that question. !

    • 100% correct that STR are not creating a housing shortage. The facts are, year-round residency is up substantially (13%) on MVY while the number of homes has only increased 2% from 2010. This is a LT occupancy growth that has actually reduced ST uses and STR. This full time occupancy increase has been reported by both island papers.

    • Individual’s often purchase property for their personal use under an LLC. The large corporations that are buying up investment properties in other areas usually are not very interested in communities that have only one season. The ROI on an investment property on the Vineyard is not very attractive compared to someplace like Miami Beach where you can buy up a few dozen condos and rent them for most of the year.

  2. Anyone can start an LLC. Most of them are not ”corporations” in the strict sense of the word. It is simply a form of business that protects privacy, tax, liabilities and other flexibilities.

  3. Nice to see the island pushed through a housing bank plan that our local state politicians said would not go through. We elected them and then do not listen to them. For those who do not want a housing bank bill this is good news. Another feel good movement by the woke island.

    • Bob– Since you use the dog whistle word “woke” frequently, could you define that word for us ?
      I know it gets conservative to shake their heads and boo at conservative “rallies” whenever a right wing politician uses it to describe their political opponents, or some policy they are against. So, I’m just wondering, what it means to you. As far as I can tell, it’s not easy to define… Sort of like “what is a woman” ?
      But I won’t ask you to define that, as it is off topic here.

      • WOKE
        Umbrella term for individuals who are engrossed by social justice and thinks of themselves as saviors with a moral high ground, but remain willfully ignorant to the irrationality of their claims and the problems they create. These individuals give special treatment to certain minorities in hopes of ending racism and perpetuate mental illnesses as the norm.
        My son’s woke kindergarten teacher taught him that he’s actually a girl because he played with dolls.

        • andy– nice rant, but a little biased, don’t cha’ think ? And the premise is completely wrong.
          And really, andy, we all know that kindergarten teachers are not teaching kids that they are a different gender because they are not conforming to gender norms.
          Your so called “woke” teacher might be accepting of a boy who wants to play with dolls, but is not “teaching him” that he is a girl..

          I think in the end, much better to be supportive than beating him.
          I will cite myself as an example. The nuns literally hit my left hand with a ruler every time I tried to write something with my left hand, because for some reason left handed people were deemed “not normal”, or spawn of Satan or some other nonsense– who knows ? And look what happened—-I grew up and put a colander on my head for my drivers license photo as an expression of my religious beliefs.

  4. If the country goes into a recession economy, no state legislators will be in a mood to pass a new tax ..even if it gets rewritten 6 times from its current proposal which it will ..

    • Gayle– A number of conservatives here, on this very site, declared that the country was already in a recession just a few months ago. Why are you using the word “if” ?
      Are you saying that they were wrong ?

  5. I really believe the elephant in the room is that very few want to rent to year round people. the liability and mass renter laws are so stringent that people are having to pay thousands in utilities and services, while the renters don’t pay rent and are difficult to evict. not to mention the damages that far exceed a security deposit.
    I would find the risk to rent year round far higher than STR set backs. the income for a year round unit would likely be the same revenue as renting for 3 months in the summer with STR…less risk in a tough economic time, can’t blame people for seeking financial security in an extremely expensive area.

    • Nice post. Needed to be said. I have been wondering whether the Housing Bank, in addition to building affordable housing, could subsidize year round rentals such that they would provide a superior return to STRs as well as take on the risks that you mentioned to reduce the risk to the property holder. There are lots of houses and condos already built on MV, but the risk and return of STRs is far superior to renting year round.

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