Portland Housing Committee drafts short-term rental rules

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PORTLAND — Councilor Jill Duson said Monday she hopes the City Council can act on regulating short-term residential rentals in early spring.

“We really have not strayed from the basic framework the committee agreed to six weeks ago,” Duson said after the City Council Housing Committee recommended ordinance changes at its Feb. 8 meeting.

The proposed regulations would continue to allow owners who are city residents of single-family homes to rent their homes for periods of 30 days or fewer at one stretch; allow owners who reside in their buildings to rent units without a citywide cap, and limit the number of total units rented in buildings not occupied by owners to 300.

Licensing and registration fees begin at $100, and increase to as much as $4,000 per unit in buildings not occupied by owners who are converting five or more units to short-term rentals.

“We think it is urgent we do something,” Duson said, but added the regulations are written so there will be a full review six months after implementation.

The Casco Bay islands are exempt from the regulations, but owners must register with the city and pay the designated fees for single-family or owner-occupied multi-unit buildings.

“It is a measurably different atmosphere; folks have been doing (island)  rentals for generations,” Duson said.

The review could lead to tweaking regulations as the city gets more data on the scope of short-term rentals, Duson said.

Her committee will also meet with Police Chief Michael Sauschuck to review the city’s “disorderly house” ordinance, which governs buildings getting three or more police complaints in a month.

The license for a short-term rental could be revoked if the house is in violation of the disorderly house ordinance.

Most of the regulations will be added to City Code Chapter 6, but the proposed ordinance will first go to the Planning Board for a review and recommendation on a change in the zoning definition for dwellings found in Chapter 14.

Duson said she is hoping the Planning Board work will be done next month, so councilors can have a first reading on the regulations in early April. A public hearing and council vote would follow later that month.

The Housing Committee has been grappling with the question of short-term rentals since late summer as more and more owners are becoming hosts and advertising on websites such as Airbnb.

Duson said the committee’s intent was to ensure homeowners needing extra income can have the option of short-term rentals while also preventing neighborhoods from being overrun by absentee owners who are essentially operating businesses in residential areas.

Short-term rental hosts have joined together as Share Portland and have contested city data and whether short-term rentals are affecting the long-term rental housing market.

Duson said she is comfortable with the data provider by city Housing Planner Tyler Norod, but added the required registrations will provide more clarity.

“We do recognize there are definite holes, we can’t be sure exactly how many rentals are out there,” she said. 

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Duson

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.
  • Edward Kearney

    The Housing Committee has made an awful mess. I’ve never seen such a capitulation to the forces of AirBnb. We have a wide open city.

  • Lars Whelan

    I think the housing committee worked hard to find a balance. I really appreciate the cap of no more than 5 units for any one person to profit from.

  • Mainer1

    Maybe she should see a dentist?