Newport RI vacation rentals banned in some areas by city council

NEWPORT — While people who already operate short-term rentals in residential areas of the city can still do so after City Council’s decision to ban them on Wednesday, residents renting their homes are still concerned about the future of their guest houses.

“Airbnb income is not extra money. It’s our livelihood,” said Meg Nelson, Newport resident and Airbnb owner. thing than being fired from my job.”

City Council unanimously approved two ordinances to change the city’s zoning code at the meeting, though Councilwoman Angela McCalla was absent. The ordinances effectively prohibit the operation of short-term vacation rentals in residential areas of the city.

Breakdown of what the city council has approved regarding short-term rentals

The first ordinance, which passed without discussion, adds the term “short-term rental” to code definitions and references code regulations for “guest houses”. The city uses the code definition for “guest houses”. regulate rentals with leases of less than 30 days for years, referring to the section for making decisions when landlords propose to operate a short-term rental in the city.

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The second ordinance passed impacts where these guesthouses can operate. The city allows landlords to maintain short-term rentals, or guest houses, in the city’s five commercial districts “as of right,” meaning landlords in those areas need only register their short-term rentals from the city to start operations.

However, before the council passed the new ordinances on Wednesday, the city also allowed properties in four residential neighborhoods – R3, R10, R20 and R40 – to operate as short-term rentals as long as they received the Approval of a Special Use Permit from the Zoning Review Board.

The review process for these permits would allow the zoning board to approve or deny short-term rentals and set conditions on their permits, such as a renewal deadline.

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The second order also requires short-term rentals in the city’s limited business district on Lower Thames Street, one of the commercial areas where they were permitted “as of right”, to now acquire a special-use permit.

“We are in a city, everyone. It’s not the town of Newport, it’s the town of Newport’

While the second reading of the ordinances was not a public hearing, council opened the floor to comments from members of the public. One of the residents who came forward, Brandon Pico, filed an application with the Zoning Board of Review to operate an Airbnb at his two-family property on Marchant Street, where he also lives.

He asked the council if they had any data or experts to comment on the housing issues the council used to oppose short-term rentals, saying the percentage of short-term rentals compared to to the total number of housing units in the city is too small. be the primary cause of the dwindling stock of available housing in Newport.

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“There definitely needs to be better regulation and restrictions on who does short term rentals and/or what harm they have in this community because I also hear the fabric of the neighborhood is being ripped from us, it’s changing,” Pico mentioned. “We are in a city, everyone. It’s not Newport Town, it’s the city of Newport. If you want that cul-de-sac, “Leave it to Beaver”, white picket fence, it’s over there in Portsmouth or maybe Middletown. But it is a city.

Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano disagreed with Pico’s statement, saying she’s seen homes in the city undergo sudden renovations because people from out of town have the money to flip the properties and turn them into vacation rentals, when before there were more owner-occupied rentals on the market.

Napolitano pointed to the recently opened The Calvert apartments – which have already rented all 36 apartments despite the price of $1,800 for one bedroom – as proof that there is still a demand for more housing in the city.

“There are families in this town,” Napolitano said. “We’re second in the state for subsidized housing, and that’s 15 percent. That’s very high, and affordable housing means something different to everyone… It’s relative to different people what is affordable, unfortunately, but one thing I’m proud of: we have the best affordable housing in the world. ‘state because we made an effort to do this.’

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Napolitano said “not everyone has to live exactly where they work” and that Newport “is built up”, to counter residents who argued the city has become too expensive for people who earn less. some income.

She said she would like to see other communities make a similar effort to build affordable housing for families in need.

“After Vietnam, after World War II, they built places,” Napolitano said. “They haven’t since, and we have a lot of families around who would love a nice, affordable home.”

The planning board had given a negative recommendation to the ordinances approved by the city council

Pico and Nelson also argued that their short-term rentals allowed them to afford to live in Newport. Without them, they would be forced to relocate due to the rising cost of living in the area. Nelson is originally from Newport and operates an Airbnb alongside his father from their family home. She said the money earned from renting is their main source of income.

She asked if council was considering exceptions for long-term residents with active special use permits to run owner-occupied rentals. City attorney Behan later confirmed that special use permits are tied to property, not individuals, and therefore cannot have owner provisions.

One way the Zoning Board of Review has been able to prevent properties from remaining on short-term rentals after changing owners is by applying expiry dates as conditions to some permits.

AirBnb Permit Expiration Dates

One such permit belongs to Liam McDermott, who runs an Airbnb near Old Fort Road with his aunt. The special use permit he acquired expires after five years, which means that he will no longer be able to renew the permit when the ordinance is passed. However, after quickly reviewing the permit conditions, Behan said it was possible the zoning board would reserve the right to renew the permit after the five years were up.

When the ordinances were submitted to the Planning Board on March 7, it voted to submit a negative recommendation, saying they were not sufficient to address the underlying problem of short-term rentals.

The council asked the city council to commission a study of guest houses and their impact on Newport’s housing stock and asked the council to form a sub-committee with the council to completely rewrite the guest houses section. zoning code hosts.

During the city council’s first reading of the ordinances on March 9, Behan called the planning board’s decision surprising and said the city would not benefit from another study of the matter because staff are studying the issue. topic for years. The council approved the ordinances in first reading unanimously.

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