Tisbury considering short-term rental regulations 

Accessory dwelling units viewed as an option to alleviate housing pains. 

Tisbury affordable housing committee members Jean Hay (left), Victor Capoccia, and Henry Neider (not shown) ran a forum regarding short-term rentals in the town. —Eunki Seonwoo

Tisbury housing officials are looking at potentially proposing a bylaw to regulate short-term rentals during a special town meeting this fall, as a possible way to help ease housing struggles.

During a forum hosted by the town’s affordable housing committee at Vineyard Haven library on Tuesday, April 16, town officials and attendees noted a significant rise in the housing reserve for short-term rentals in Tisbury that prompted an effort to develop bylaws addressing short-term rentals and accessory dwelling units. The forum was to inform the public and gain community feedback.

According to numbers provided by the committee, Tisbury — with a population of 4,900 — has 3,300 housing units. Sixty-six percent of those, or 1,900 units, are occupied year-round. Among those that are occupied, 38 percent are rented. 

Meanwhile, the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority has a rental waiting list with 358 Islanders on it, and 118 of those are Tisbury residents. And the authority has not received any new offers from Tisbury homeowners willing to participate in its affordable rental program in four years. 

Committee member Jean Hay underscored what many Islanders feel, that it’s become harder and harder to find housing. “It’s total luck now,” she said. “When I moved here 40 years ago, there was year-round housing.” 

One reason committee members point to is the increasing short-term rental market.

According to the committee, the estimated number of short-term rental units has increased in Tisbury from 250 in 2022 to 312 in 2023. The median rental cost was $428 a night.

But the committee says there are a lot of uncertainties about how many or what kind of short-term rentals are actually being rented out, and whether they are rooms or whole houses. There’s no database for Tisbury short-term rentals, and some homeowners likely don’t register their rentals at all. 

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s lodging operations registry lists a higher number of short-term rentals, at just over 690 properties. 

The lack of information is why Tisbury and Oak Bluffs are looking to enter into a joint effort to develop a database and inspection program for short-term rentals.

The committee has yet to get into the details of how the regulations would work, and are starting the process to gather feedback from the public.

To alleviate some of the pressures on housing, the committee is also looking at ways to regulate accessory dwelling units. Details on what this would entail are still in the works. 

Committee member Henry Neider said allowing accessory dwelling units of around 900 square feet in size could be an option to develop more year-round housing without the overdevelopment of Tisbury.

To avoid accessory dwelling units from becoming short-term rental units, committee members say that creating limitations on short-term rentals and accessory dwelling units would be necessary. The committee plans to be looking at the bylaws of other resort communities, like Provincetown, Nantucket, and West Tisbury, which recently passed a short-term rental bylaw during its annual town meeting earlier this month. 

According to committee chair Victor Capoccia, Tisbury did set up a committee around five years ago to develop housing recommendations that were “parallel” to what is being considered now, but the town did not act on them. Affordable housing committee member Elaine Miller said at the time, Tisbury wanted to do the work internally, but it required hiring more people and administrative changes. Frederick Rundlett, who was a part of the committee from five years ago, added that the town had not funded the effort enough. 

Capoccia said various factors will need to be considered, such as how long someone can rent out a property as a short-term rental, community impact, and enforcement. 

He also said there was no “magic bullet” to solve the town’s housing issues, but he said it will require a collaborative effort among all stakeholders. “It’s piece by piece,” he said. “It’s a complicated puzzle.”

Some people attending the event wanted more details about enforcement, and whether 900 square feet was the right size for accessory dwelling units.

A recording of the forum is also available for viewing online, at bit.ly/V_TisburyAHC.


  1. NYC and Paris are moving in the right direction: restricting short-term rentals significantly. Amsterdam is restricting hotel rooms to drive up the price and to reduce people visiting.
    My view would be to increase hotel rooms and decrease short-term rentals. There are missing pieces of information, not the least of which is who owns the property. Can anyone (foreigners, Wall Street organizations) buy unlimited properties? The real estate game is shifting under our feet like a game of Jumanji in the sand.

  2. Finally, 2 towns working together, cooperatively on an issue. I applaud Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven for stepping up to the plate. If we ever want to help the burden on taxpayers, we need more regionalization on just about everything. Soon we are going to have full-time Fireman across the island and it is absolutely Ludacris that we are not talking about combining all the fire departments to one central facility. Edgartown just getting ready to spend millions on their fire department. What town will be next? I will take a baby step when it happens.

    • More and more rules and regulations.
      The Trump Train Landslide 2024 will put an end to this job killing nonsense

  3. We need to stop this propaganda that somehow BIG corporations are buying up properties left and right and turning them into rentals. There are ZERO facts to substantiate this ridiculous notion. At today’s prices the island is not an attractive investment for BIG corporations. They would lose their shirt on such a small ROI.

  4. John, if it’s true it isn’t propaganda.
    Can we agree that the real estate
    industry is changing?
    Wall Street investment may or may not
    be happening on your street—yet.
    “For Wall Street firms, housing is a good investment, particularly when there’s a widespread shortage of it…”
    This article says that Wall Street is
    only to blame in certain markets,
    which in those markets is extremely harmful.

    “Private equity firms have been carving
    out an increasingly substantial share of
    single-family home purchases,
    raising concern about the potential
    consequences for housing affordability and market competitiveness.“

    Besides, my main point wasn’t about big companies buying properties,
    my main point was that some cities are
    looking at quality of life in their
    neighborhoods and choosing long-term
    residents over short-term renters.

    Quality of life declines when residential
    neighborhoods have too many
    short-term rentals.

    I repeat: increase commercial hotel rooms
    and decrease or eliminate short-term rentals.

  5. Yes! All those acres filled with hotel rooms would be a much better use of the land! How many more beds can hotels offer vs super expensive homes on short-term rental?

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