The city is a step closer to charging fees to people who rent out their properties through Airbnb or similar services.
After months of work, the committee that’s been studying how to regulate short-term rentals on Wednesday finalized a set of policies that it will vote on recommending to City Council at its next meeting. The policies all appeared to have support from a majority of committee members.
The policy includes capping the number of non-owner occupied units that can be rented for short terms at 300, which represents roughly 1 percent of Portland’s overall housing stock, according to city planner Tyler Norod.
The committee also proposed an outright ban on short-term rentals of any single-family home in which the owner does not actually live.
“I think we don’t want people buying up single-family homes to use them for short-term rentals, if they have no intent of living there,” said Councilor David Brenerman.
If approved by the full council, the regulations would require that anyone renting their property for less than one month register it with the city, vouch that it is up to the housing safety code, and pay an annual fee. The policy would also limit the number of allowed guests.
The proposed fees are steeply graduated, which city councilors suggested would discourage too many short-term rentals. Depending on whether the owner lives in the property and the number of units up for short-term rental, the registration fee could range from $100 to $4,000.
For instance, someone renting out space in his or her home would pay $100 to register. But someone renting out multiple units would pay an increasing fee for each one. Fees would be higher for units not occupied by the owner and would top off at $4,000 for the fifth such unit in a building.
Money from the registration fees would go toward enforcing the policy and a city fund used to promote affordable housing. Violators could face hefty fines.
Last year, the number of units in Portland up for rent on Airbnb roughly doubled to 439, according to an October memo from the city’s planning department. That number includes the more than 150 that are likely being rented commercially, according to the memo.
Both councilors and city staff have said they worry that the spread of short-term rentals is taking apartments off the market and driving up Portland’s already high rents.
Any eventual regulations would be re-evaluated one year after enactment, once the city has gathered better data on the market, the committee suggested.
Other Maine municipalities, including Rockland, Cape Elizabeth and Bar Harbor have already regulated short term rentals.