Growing political support for regulating Airbnbs and other rentals in Maine

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During a housing shortage in Maine, a new target has emerged among Democratic candidates for the legislature: Airbnb and other short-term rentals.

Several Democratic candidates for the Legislature responded to a Bangor Daily News candidate poll saying they support regulating short-term rentals to deal with the housing crisis. And many Republicans agree, even with high-level members open to change.

This bipartisan interest comes amid concerns that short-term rentals increase the cost and decrease the availability of long-term rentals in Maine, a phenomenon confirmed in several national studies. Although previous attempts at regulation have failed in the Legislative Assembly, this could be a sign of changes to come next year.

Rebecca Jauch, a Democrat running in a House district encompassing most of Topsham, said she would support legislation setting a tax or fee on short-term rentals owned by out-of-state residents . Other decisions would have to be made locally, including caps, she said.

Asked about the potential loss of tourism dollars through regulation, Jauch noted that the proliferation of short-term rental units already appears to be affecting the economy, namely taking business out of the country’s traditional hotels and resorts. State.

“Some of them are part of great Maine traditions that go back generations,” she said.

The popularity of short-term rentals varies widely across Maine depending on the community: A BDN analysis earlier this year found that more than a third of Airbnb listings were in just 10 of Maine’s nearly 500 municipalities. Portland is the most popular, with York, Wells, Bar Harbor and Rangeley among other top destinations.

New regulations are usually burdensome in Augusta. But this problem is different. Industry groups including HospitalityMaine, which represents hotels and restaurants, have pushed for measures to rein in competitors. Lawmakers this year rejected a bill that would have allowed cities and towns to assess fees on homes not occupied by permanent residents.

Dan Sayre, a Democrat running for a House district covering most of Kennebunk, said he would look at policies that would license and regulate them the same as inns and hotels. While vacation rentals have always been a part of Kennebunk, the widespread use of properties primarily used for short-term rentals has had a much more negative effect, he said.

“There’s a difference between people who have an interest in a community and people who don’t,” Sayre said.

Maine’s biggest political names have yet to weigh in on the issue. Governor Janet Mills is eagerly awaiting the results of a newly formed legislative commission examining affordable housing and short-term rentals, her spokesperson said. His main challenger in the 2022 election, former Gov. Paul LePage, is listening to proposals for short-term rentals as well as the stakeholders involved, his campaign said.

Any solution will require some tweaking. Deputy Senate Minority Leader Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta, a member of that housing commission, said he was far more interested in creating new housing than imposing rules on existing units.

But it seems likely the state will soon provide resources and guidance to municipalities looking to regulate short-term rentals, he said. This could include registration fees, with the legislature potentially capping fees.

A new legislative framework could bring new safety safeguards, such as requiring regular inspections of septic tanks if the property is in a riparian zone or any area that could harm the environment. It could also give a certain segment of funds generated from accommodation taxes placed on short-term rentals directly to the communities that host them.

Deputy House Minority Leader Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, said he would not be surprised to see short-term rentals appear in the next session, but said he would need details on a bill before taking a position on it. Any proposed bill should be more targeted than the last attempt, he said.

“They need to streamline this a lot more,” Stetkis said.

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