Off-island owners dominate the market.

Since first publishing our white paper, people in the community have asked thoughtful questions like, who owns the nearly 2,000 short-term rentals registered with the State? And, how many of these have the potential to be housing for year-round residents?

The answers are surprising. Going through the registry and identifying each short-term rental owner shows nearly 80% are off-island residents.

Only one out of five rentals belongs to an island resident – a combination of residents who rent their own home (i.e., part of the time or part of the house) and a few whole-house rentals.

Why are so many investors coming to Nantucket to invest in short-term rentals? If you understand the IRS tax code, you know why investors everywhere in the country have targeted short-term rentals. When treated like a business, they offer significant advantages, including substantial income tax savings each year, and a property that pays for itself over time. The investment proposition is attractive.

There is strong evidence that investors have transformed formerly year-round homes into short-term rentals. In the last ten years, the island lost many hundreds of year-round rentals while the number of vacant housing units grew by nearly 1,100.1 Many properties were upgraded to suit large visitor groups (pool, more bedrooms, more bathrooms), while others stayed largely the same before being listed as rentals.

What’s noticeable is the number of investor-owned rentals that have infiltrated traditionally year-round neighborhoods: Cato Lane, Somerset Rd, Gray Ave, Brinda Lane, and the list goes on.

Given the impacts of this commercial activity on the availability and cost of year-round housing and our infrastructure, environment, and community, Nantucket voters can and should address this critical issue. More on this soon.

Enjoy your Sunday evening,

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

1Office of Policy Development & Research, ACS data (2010-2018), July 2020:,Massachusetts&dt=July%2017,%202020.

Talking short-term rentals with the Health Director.

In our last newsletter, we discussed how Nantucket lost over 600 year-round rentals from 2010 to 2018 – the same period during which Airbnb ballooned from 2,500 to millions of listings worldwide. A growing number of investors buying properties to turn them into short-term rentals has impacted our community, housing, infrastructure, and environment. But what about our Town resources?

We spoke with Nantucket’s Health Director, Roberto Santamaria, about his relationship with short-term rentals. While neighbors might call the police to complain of late parties, the Health Department receives calls from the renters themselves. Roberto says, “although this year has been quiet, we normally receive 3-5 calls from renters every week in the summertime.” They call to report problems with properties ranging from rodents, mold, lack of running or hot water, to broken appliances. He added that issues typically arise when owners or managers are not on the island to monitor properties.

The result? Numerous time-consuming site visits. There are times when Roberto’s team must contact the police to track down a property owner’s phone number.  

The Town licenses local hotels and inns, so there’s a system in place to easily communicate with each owner and manager. That’s not the case with short-term rentals. Going forward, it seems essential to have a way to share time-sensitive information, such as health and hygiene guidelines, or quarantine requirements for out-of-state travelers. 

Establishing local short-term rental resources, including a registry, would benefit our community, visitors, as well as the Town.

Enjoy your Sunday,

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

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:,Massachusetts&dt=July%2017,%202020

Communities monitor STRs with online solutions.

Last week, we obtained an updated list of Nantucket’s short-term rentals registered with the State. The list is now close to 2,000 STRs.

With so many STRs, how would the Town enforce any regulations?

There’s an easy answer. In the last decade, several online solutions have emerged to help municipalities with short-term rental compliance. It’s good news for towns and cities everywhere with limited staff and resources, property owners who need to register and comply, and neighbors who live next to a disruptive STR. 

One of these solutions, LodgingRevs, serves over 50 communities, including Telluride, Aspen, Maui, and Big Sky. Their customized packages offer services to:

  • Identify short-term rentals by scanning listings on Airbnb, VRBO, realtor sites and others
  • Automatically notify property owners about the online licensing process and bring them into compliance
  • Give government staff access to dashboards, reports, etc.
  • Offer a 24/7 hotline for support and complaints

Every STR registered in the database also has an emergency contact on file – someone who can quickly get to the property if there’s an issue to resolve. Last week’s front-page story in the Inky described how the Health Director had to fine the owner of 2 Atlantic Ave who rented to guests that refused to comply with emergency orders over the Fourth of July. Access to a database with property owners and contact information is needed.

Enjoy your week,

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

Another way to help housing.

The island community has been working on many initiatives to help solve the housing crisis. Big solutions are needed, but will take time. Meanwhile, we need all the help we can get to ensure year-round islanders find a stable, affordable home. That’s where the Community Impact Fee comes in. 

In 2019, when the Baker Administration expanded the lodging tax to include short-term rentals, it directly acknowledged the impact of STRs on housing and infrastructure. And it offered municipalities a number of tools to find a better balance. 

It’s common knowledge that the State collects a 5.7% lodging tax, while municipal governments have the option to impose up to an additional 6% (Nantucket’s current policy is 6%).

But the State also created other options, including the Community Impact Fee, targeting a subset of short-term rentals that put additional pressure on local housing, water, sewer, roads, etc. This local option fee can be up to 3%, and it ONLY applies to professionally-managed STRs. The State defines these as STRs in a multi-property portfolio of two or more investor-owned units.

Here’s how it can help in the near term. Local governments must set aside at least 35% of the tax collected to pay for affordable housing or infrastructure projects.

In the last year, eleven cities and towns have adopted the Community Impact Fee, including Amherst, Boston, Cambridge, Gloucester, Plymouth, and Swampscott. 

According to the State’s registry, 328 STRs on Nantucket qualify as professionally-managed and would get assessed a Community Impact Fee, if we elected this option. How much could the tax generate? If these properties rented for eight weeks at Nantucket’s average daily rate of $921 sourced from AirDNA, they could make $17M in rental income. Apply the 3% Community Impact Fee, and the Town would receive roughly $500,000 per year. Voters could elect to have all of it pay for housing and infrastructure projects.

The Community Impact Fee could be part of a comprehensive plan to address the way STRs are shaping the island and its community. We’ll be talking more about the impact of investor-owned STRs on housing soon. 

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

The community’s message to the Select Board.

The Nantucket community has a long history of coming together when it matters most, to make things right. This time it’s about Ashley Erisman and Mark Beale, two very qualified Conservation Commission incumbents who have served in a balanced fashion. They both deserve to be reappointed, but for some inexplicable reason, the Select Board’s replaced Ashley Erisman – an experienced high school biology teacher, and team player, with a background in wetland resources and regulations – with a candidate out of left field.

There’s something wrong here – and the community is standing up. We hope the Select Board rights this wrong in its meeting on Monday. 

In the meantime, please write to the Select Board asking them to do the right thing. It’s essential to convey to the Select Board that both incumbents – Ashley Erisman AND Mark Beale – should be reappointed for another 3-year term. 

Select Board email addresses:

Dear Select Board,

I am urging you to reappoint BOTH incumbents to the Con Com. Ashley Erisman AND Mark Beale are fair and objective. Together they have the scientific knowledge and experience to serve the community.

Thank you for your consideration.

Thank you for your help and enjoy your Sunday.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

The environment should be the priority.

Appointments to local boards, committees, and commissions are typically straightforward and predictable – the most qualified person is selected to serve. But this week left us shocked by the Select Board’s choice for a critical seat on the Conservation Commission. Like many, we thought the incumbent Chair with extensive scientific expertise and six years on the Commission was the obvious choice. Instead, 4 out of 5 Select Board members opted for a new candidate with less relevant experience. Their reasoning? More balance.

We spoke with Emily Molden, Executive Director for the Nantucket Land Council. She’s spent the last 15 years attending Con Com meetings, reviewing permit applications, and providing an outside perspective to emphasize protecting Nantucket’s fragile environment. She’s just as surprised (and disappointed) by the appointment. She believes “the collective board that served this past year has proven open, reasonable and fair, while implementing the wetland regulations.” Select Board members claiming the need for more balance would imply too many waivers or denials for projects. But Emily says, “The Commission spends weeks working with applicants to address concerns and balance the interests of property owners as well as resource areas.”

The Conservation Commission’s main charge is to review and issue permits for any work within 100 feet of a “wetland resource area” – this includes beaches, dunes, ponds, and land subject to flooding. It’s the only local regulatory body required to consider and protect our most sensitive environmental areas from continued development pressures.

Beautiful and healthy beaches, dunes, harbors, ponds – all reasons why so many are drawn to Nantucket. According to Nantucket Data Platform’s 2019 Island Life Survey, natural beauty is the #1 reason why year-round residents stay, and the #1 reason why summer residents move here and stay here.
The Select Board itself has identified Environmental Leadership as a top priority in its Strategic Plan. The Town has put coastal resilience at the top of the list, too – leading voters to authorize $550,000 for coastal resiliency planning and creating the Coastal Resilience Advisory Committee.

As Emily puts it so well, ” If the Select Board is genuinely interested in protecting our coastal and wetland resources, which will ensure the future of the island and its economy, I hope they will reconsider their idea of balance. The Conservation Commission is THE entity that is doing this work for them.”

Enjoy your Sunday evening.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

The Hamptons – before and after.

As we continue to investigate communities that have tried to strike a balance between the rising impact of short-term rentals and quality of life for residents, it’s hard to ignore a fellow getaway destination: The Hamptons.

In East Hampton, residents had concerns that short-term rentals were disrupting residential neighborhoods, and that tenants and guests weren’t all staying in safe conditions. They also believed the focus on short-short-term rentals was leading to more and more transient visitors with no attachment to the community. In 2016, the town introduced two significant changes: a Rental Registry and a 14-day minimum stay.

Some realtors worried the minimum stay requirement would slow the demand for vacation rentals. They were proved wrong. The following summer, real estate market leaders acknowledged that rentals were in line with the previous year. They also found there were fewer complaints of big parties and neighborhood disruption.

COVID changed everything. One realtor we connected with said his phone is ringing off the hook with people wishing to leave the city, looking for month-long and seasonal rentals. Of course, the Hamptons are attractive, given their proximity to New York City. But we wonder, did the transition to a 14-day minimum establish a clientele with an appetite towards renting even longer?

Town Councilwoman of East Hampton, Sylvia Overby, says the short-term rental ordinance was created to discourage a house from “becoming a business in the center of a neighborhood.” The goal is to encourage longer-term renters, with the thought these renters could someday “become part of the community.”

Like most of the communities we encounter, the rules are much different for residents who rent part of their home. In East Hampton, that means non-resident owners must register their rental whether they rent for two weeks, by the month, or for the year. The focus is on safety. 

Generally speaking, communities are more lenient towards local homeowners who make ends meet by renting a room or a garage apartment. We’ll go into more detail next week.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

The shorter version of our short-term rental work.

Perhaps you’ve been too busy to read last week’s white paper on short-term rentals and the impact they’ve had on Nantucket?

If so, here’s a one-page summary with the highlights. Click the image to go directly to the full-size version. Not only have we been creating this piece, but we have also begun to make plans for a community-wide conversation. We hope you’ll take part. 

May you have a solemn and thought-provoking Memorial Day.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

The long and short-term of it.

Our team has been working on a white paper. We started this research well before the coronavirus made national headlines. The topic is short-term rentals – the rise of online platforms and their impact on Nantucket.

While short-term rentals may be drastically different this summer, we must plan ahead of the next growth wave. The goal is to begin a community conversation towards a solution. Let’s start with the obvious. Why short-term rentals? Why now?

#1. We can no longer ignore the direct link between the short-term rental market and the growing housing crisis. Nantucket Data Platform’s study of housing demand and supply has brought measurable insights. Housing advocates around the country have sounded the alarm for years.

#2. Nantucket has many short-term rentals operated like businesses. Yet, they get preferential treatment (property taxes, inspections) over local industries and businesses. The State’s expansion of the lodging tax to short-term rentals has given us new data on their prevalence and ownership.

#3. Their impact on neighborhoods, public infrastructure, traffic, the environment, etc. is real. We’ve all known this was happening, but haven’t looked into it much.

There is more to the story.

Nantucket is unique, and solutions must fit the community’s long-term vision for the island. Visit our website to download your copy of the Short-Term Rental white paper.

Happy Sunday.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director