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Thursday, March 9, 2023

Giving cities and towns authority to regulate short-term rentals

Charlestown Sen. Gu introduce bills to let cities/towns regulate short term rentals 

Rep. Lauren H. Carson and Sen. Victoria Gu have introduced legislation that would allow municipalities to regulate short term rentals within their borders.

“Short-term rentals impact different communities around the state in very different ways,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport). “Right now, cities and towns have no ability to regulate this market despite the disproportionate costs coastal communities have seen.”

“In our coastal communities, people may be able to find a rental in the off-season from September to April, but then they’re forced to stay with family, couch surf or stay at a motel during the summer because the house is being rented out to tourists for one to two thousand dollars a week,” said Senator Gu (D-Dist. 38, Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown). 

“As I was talking to residents, some pointed out the houses in their neighborhood that were getting converted to short-term rentals, which drives up rent and housing prices for long-term residents.”

Critics of the current short-term rental market say allowing large groups of tourists to rent homes in residential neighborhoods leads to noise complaints, disruption to the quality of life and safety issues. 

A home with large groups coming in and out creates more traffic, waste water and trash and recycling. Parties have gotten out of hand, leading to conflicts with neighbors and police responses. In 2021, a University of Rhode Island student was murdered on Memorial Day weekend at a party held at a short-term rental on Thames Street in Newport. Additionally, every unit of housing that is rented to tourists is one less unit for Rhode Island residents.

Under current law, the state prohibits cities and towns from restricting short-term rentals. The bill (2023-S 0310) Representative Carson and Senator Gu are sponsoring would remove that preemption provision and allow municipalities to pass local ordinances to regulate or restrict short-term rental units.

“These bills are about giving towns the tools to determine what’s best for them,” said Senator Gu. “Short-term rentals impact some communities much more than others, so town and city councils should be empowered to determine where, when or if, short-term rentals should be allowed.”

“Our tourism economy is robust and the cornerstone of jobs for tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders,” said Representative Carson. “But on the other hand, we need to balance neighborhood and community life in places like Newport and South County where folks are bearing the costs for the unregulated expansion of third-party rentals. These bills are about giving local Rhode Island communities a say in how tourism is managed in their municipalities.”