Are investor-owned rentals behind the housing crisis?

In New Orleans, San Francisco, and even in Martha’s Vineyard, housing advocates agree that short-term rentals have displaced long-term rentals for many years. Islanders know how difficult it is to find a decent – forget affordable – year-round rental. It’s harder than ever.  

But what do we know about what’s been happening?  

From 2010 to 2018, the Census Bureau estimates that Nantucket lost over 600 year-round rental units – even though we built hundreds of new houses, adding 573 units to the overall housing market. That means the Island is losing on average 65 year-round homes each year. Yet the population keeps growing. It’s like being stuck in a game of musical chairs where we keep adding new players.

What shifted is the split between year-round and seasonal housing, meaning many year-round rentals were converted to seasonal homes or short-term rentals.1 Based on the number of short-term rentals registered with the State, what happened seems undeniable.   

What’s it been like for struggling islanders looking for a place to live?  

Ask Lizza – a part-time teacher and small business owner. She shared her journey in finding housing that began after returning from college when her parents decided to move off-island. Lizza moved more than a dozen times in about as many years. She’s lived it all: basements, couch surfing, outrageous rents, no kitchen or insulation, outside bathroom and shower, etc. Yet she feels lucky compared to others. After a long search finding only rooms in shared homes ranging from $1,500-$2,500/mo, she came across a local highschool friend who offered her a reasonably-priced room in a stable year-round rental. There’s no threat of the seasonal shuffle anymore, no threat of having to move away from her hometown. 

We’ve talked about how STRs are businesses in residentially zoned districts; about their impact on our neighborhoods, infrastructure, and environment. Lizza’s experience is not unique. It is the story of how investor-owned STRs have depleted the supply of affordable homes for year-round residents. There are many reasons why Nantucket needs to limit and regulate STRs, and helping islanders find and keep real homes is a big one.

Enjoy your week,

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

1 Office of Policy Development & Research, ACS data, July 2020:
https://www.huduser.gov/portal/MCCharts/countyCharts_hc_new.html?countyID=25019&countyName=Nantucket%20County,Massachusetts&dt=July%2017,%202020

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