Amendment to Article 90 + response to false claims.

Here’s a note from Tobias Glidden, ACK•Now’s Chairman, and the sponsor of the Short-Term Rental Bylaw Article. It was sent to the Inky, but wasn’t published in this week’s edition:

To the Editor, 
Thank you for your recent coverage on the critical topic of commercial short-term rentals. However, I respectfully disagree with the Editor’s suggestion that I table Article 90. ACKNow has spent the last year researching the rise in investor-owned short-term rentals and their impact on Nantucket. We’ve had countless discussions and presentations with community members and groups.

We’ve gotten good feedback on improving the article to further protect islanders’ ability to call Nantucket home. As a result, I plan to propose an amendment on Town Meeting floor to remove the limit on short-term rental days and the minimum stay for the year-round residents who want to rent their homes short-term. It’s not a matter of whether Nantucket will regulate short-term rentals like hundreds of other communities have; it’s a question of when. 

Each day that goes by, more investors are buying homes to turn them into short-term rental businesses. We need to do something to stop Nantucket from turning into a Disneyland where no one lives (or wants to live). We can’t keep kicking the can down the road. The dump is closing in ten years, the third electrical cable is coming in 9 years, the quality of the water is severely compromised, the ocean is rising, and we live on an island! Article 90 is a step in the right direction. I hope we can all come together at Town Meeting on June 5 to protect Nantucket’s community and its future.

In addition, here are a few more answers to last week’s OpEd by Henry Sanford.

Claim #1: ACKNow is a professional lobbying arm representing a small group of interests with little collaborative input from the large group of people who would be negatively impacted.

Answer: False. ACKNow is structured as a 501c4 nonprofit, also known as a community advocacy group. Organizations such as homeowners’ associations are also typically organized as a 501c4 because there are rules about just how much advocacy a 501c3 can perform. The main difference between a 501c3 and 501c4 is the ability to hire lobbyists. For example, to push a bill at the State, such as the Transfer Fee legislation to fund affordable housing (S.D.565 and H.D.1911). Over five years ago, Nantucket voters voted an article at Town Meeting to create a small real estate transfer tax (0.5%) on the value of a property sales over $2 million. The goal was to secure sustainable funding for affordable housing without adding more burden on taxpayers. This homerule petition has been stuck at the state level ever since. Recent changes mean there is momentum to get something done statewide. ACK•Now is getting involved. We’re hoping to support the statewide coalition’s efforts by providing research and inviting lobbyists to the table to get to the goal line.

Claim #2: ACKNow data is misleading. 

Answer: False. This accusation is completely unfounded. One of our core values is to be data-driven. Any data we show has a reputable source. Nantucket Together believes we’re twisting the Census housing data. We addressed their questions directly, and it was apparent they were misinterpreting a slide in a PowerPoint that clearly labeled the 2010-2018 data. This accusation is a poor attempt to discredit the organization and distract from the reality that Nantucket is changing dramatically and that we’re losing year-round homes to seasonal residents and short-term rental investors at an alarming rate. 

Claim #3: The bylaw will change the landscape of homeowners and favor those who don’t need to rent.

Answer: False. Doing nothing is changing the landscape of owners. Commercial short-term rentals are businesses in residential neighborhoods, which we argue isn’t allowed by local zoning bylaws. These owners are focused on maximizing the revenue and profit, which means adding all the amenities necessary to make the vacation rental as attractive (and expensive) as possible. As the demand for short-term rental businesses grows, the Island is gaining more absentee property owners. In just a few years, there will likely be more short-term rental businesses than year-round homes. What will the Island look like then? The proposed bylaw favors year-round residents as well as those who want to spend time on Nantucket and rent short-term to offset some expenses. This is in keeping with Nantucket’s tradition.

Claim #4: The cost of housing is not driven by short-term rental anymore than interest rates, land conservation, explosion of wealth.

Answer: Yes – but our community can control the impact of short-term rentals. The cost of housing is driven by many factors, most of which we have no control over. Our community can’t change the federal tax code, it can’t limit who buys a home, and it can’t control interest rates and the national economy, all of which also fuel the short-term rental industry. In 2019, the Baker Administration voted in enabling legislation to give municipalities control over short-term rentals. Communities from Salem, Brookline, Plymouth, Boston, and Mashpee have regulated short-term rentals. 

How does the demand for short-term rentals affect home prices? Let’s look at a concrete example. In 2008, the Island of Kauai, HI, banned new short-term rentals in residential areas and grandfathered those short-term rentals which had been operating for at least two years. Even full-time residents can’t STR their homes unless the property has a grandfathered permit. Today, properties with STR permits consistently sell for 25% more than those without a license. The opportunity to operate a short-term rental business is driving up prices in a significant way. For this and other reasons – including the creation of wealth in recent years – Nantucket’s home prices are now completely out of reach for most. In 2011, homes sales under $1 million represented 43% of total home sales. In 2020, the number dropped to 8% (Source: mylinkmls.com). The median home price is $2 million. 

Claim #5: ACKNow is using affordable housing as a Trojan Horse in a manipulative attempt to pass land use without going through normal zoning bylaw process.

Answer: False. I’m proud to be part of the team at ACKNow. I have deep respect for our board members. Each of them has a history of helping the community to afford to live on the Island. From participating in creating the affordable housing covenant program, sponsoring a $20 million article for affordable housing projects to protect the Island from unfriendly 40Bs, helping to feed struggling families, and countless contributions to local nonprofits, including those focused on helping children and families in need. The link between commercial short-term rentals and local housing shortages is documented in countless studies (some of which are on our website).

Another thing is for sure. Nantucket can’t build its way out of the housing crisis. It’s a problem that requires many solutions, and ACKNow is working on this effort and collaborating with others on more exciting initiatives. Lastly, the proposed article is in the form of a general bylaw, consistent with the State’s enabling legislation. It has been reviewed preliminarily by the State and by Nantucket’s Town counsel. 

Claim #6: Financial stability of the Town and rating agency, revenue at risk.

Answer: False. The Town of Nantucket is in a great financial position. Nantucket is believed to be one of the select few islands in the US with a triple-A rating. There are many factors at play, including:

  1. The stability and wealth of its tax base,
  2. The Town’s stable and healthy financial positions, mainly driven by its reserves, and
  3. Strong fiscal management.

For Nantucket to continue to enjoy this favorable position, we must continue to protect its community (both year-round and seasonal). We must foster a sustainable tourism economy and in line with safeguarding what makes Nantucket so special. The short-term rental licensing bylaw is not intended to have a dramatic impact on the lodging tax. The intent is to restore a balance and reduce the adverse effects of commercial STRs: additional pressure on year-round housing, neighborhood disruption, traffic, stress on the infrastructure (water, sewer, and landfill), and the environment, all of which run the risk of making Nantucket unattractive over time.

Claim #7: [the bylaw is] poorly crafted, elitist policy coming from a distant enclave and a chic office with fancy marketing. 

Answer: False. The bigger question might be whether Nantucket will let real estate interests dictate the long-term planning of the Island? Like it was mentioned above, this organization is about protecting what the community loves about Nantucket. As it stands, Nantucket is at risk of being institutionalized – the businesses and homes purchased by off-island companies and investors, sending most of the rental income (short- and long-term or commercial) and business profits off-island. Short-term rentals are only part of the picture, but it’s an excellent place to start because voters have an actual set of tools to address the issue. The short-term rental licensing bylaw is the culmination of many months of extensive research and discussions. All along the way, we’ve been communicating our findings and getting feedback from different community groups to improve the solution.

As for the attack on our office on Easy Street – it was designed with the help of our favorite local designers and outfitted at IKEA. From the beginning, our founding members thought it necessary to have a physical presence in Town. We are grateful for our office space and our small staff team. Now that things are beginning to return to the new normal, we’re looking forward to inviting community members to come to discuss the issues that matter to them.

Enjoy the rest of your week,

Executive Director

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