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Opposition Mounts To Portland Ballot Question Tightening Restrictions On Short-Term Rentals

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press file
In this Friday, March 11, 2016 file photo, fishing boats are tied up at a wharf on the waterfront in Portland, Maine.

Short-term rental operators in Portland are voicing opposition to a ballot question that will appear before voters in the city on Nov. 3.

Question E seeks to place further restrictions on short-term rentals, such as Airbnb. But opponents say property owners need the income.

“We know how expensive higher education is going to be for our children and we’re just trying to plan ahead,” Portland property owner Mona Qaddoumi said at a press conference Thursday.

Quaddoumi said that with a toddler and another baby on the way in December, renting out the family’s unoccupied property has become essential.

“If these restrictions end up limiting us to not be able to do it anymore, it would really affect our long-term financial plans for our family,” she said.

Among other things, the ballot measure would require that most short-term rentals be owner-occupied properties, and it would increase the annual fee from $100 to $1,000 per year. Rental fees on Portland’s islands would go up to $400.

The initiative also specifies increased penalties for ordinance violations, requires the city to keep a log of complaints, and allows the city to revoke short term licenses for any violations.

Em Burnett with ballot-backers People First Portland says the rise of short-term rentals is killing the city’s long-term housing market and occupancy.

“What is really important to center here is that people are getting kicked out of their homes. This is a really, really tough situation, trying to live in Portland, trying to stay in Portland,” she says.

Burnett says there’s been a lack of oversight and enforcement for the 400 short-term rentals currently operating in the city.

“This hurts our housing market — our long-term housing market. Four-hundred units of what often are apartment buildings that get converted to what are essentially hotels within our neighborhoods,” she says.

Burnett says even though short-term rental operators say their visitors bring money to the city, those visitors could spend the same money from hotels, and that residents also support business.