Greenport mulls blanket ban on short-term rentals

Latest crackdown on Airbnb, VRBO would set 30-day minimum

Greenport Mayor Kevin Stuessi, Greenport Village Harbor (Getty, X fka Twitter, greenportvillage)
Greenport Mayor Kevin Stuessi, Greenport Village Harbor (Getty, X fka Twitter, greenportvillage)

Greenport is exploring a ban on short-term rentals, the latest in a wave of such restrictions on Long Island’s East End.

The village would change its code to prohibit rentals lasting fewer than 30 days, including in properties where the owner lives. But the Greenport village board of trustees heard criticism of the plan during two public hearings.

“No one wants to come out here for 30 days, but people love to come out here for the weekend,” Greenport resident Rich Miller said during the June 5 meeting. Short-term tourism, he argued, is “good for the community, this is good for the restaurants, this is good for the people who are renting out.”

Greenport Mayor Kevin Stuessi said the changes were recommended by the village’s code committee to align with other East End localities’ regulations and to close loopholes that allow many rentals shorter than the village’s current 14-day minimum.

However, Riverhead is the only one of the East End’s five towns with a 30-day minimum. A patchwork system governs short-term rentals on the South Fork and North Fork, which include the towns of Southold, East Hampton, Southampton and Shelter Island.

If approved, Greenport’s change would take effect in January, but it is likely to be softened given the objections raised by Airbnb hosts and others.

New York City has cracked down on short-term rentals through Airbnb and other platforms in part to free up apartments for full-time tenants. A representative from Airbnb did not provide a comment on the proposed Greenport restriction. Although Greenport has struggled to address a shortage of affordable housing, Stuessi says the proposal is not intended to address that issue, as the properties that would be liberated would likely be pricey.

Nor is the target “party homes,” which Stuessi says are relatively small in number.

Rather, Stuessi’s primary concern is that many properties are vacant between Labor Day and Memorial Day. More than 220 of the village’s approximately 800 homes are registered as short-term rentals, the mayor said.

“There’s a lot of people in the community that are very upset about the fact that a number of homes in their neighborhood sit empty for the vast majority of the year,” Steussi said.

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The thinking is that if lucrative short-term rentals were not allowed, some investors would make their properties available for full-time rentals – such as year-long leases – or sell to someone who wants to make Greenport their home, including people working from home. 

But Jon Galler thinks that the ban would contribute to the zombie home issue. He lives in Roslyn, Long Island, spends parts of the summer in Greenport, and regularly rents out an investment property in Greenport village with his wife Stephanie.

“If we can’t rent it out, that just means that the house is going to be vacant,” he said. “It’s not like we’re going to be selling it. The house is just going to be vacant for 200 days of the year.”

Greenport homeowners can get a permit to rent their properties by applying, getting their space certified for safety and paying $250, though the board is considering raising the fee for rentals shorter than one year. Permits are renewed every two years.

The board plans to hold a work session before the end of the month to discuss changes to the proposal based on feedback from the public hearings. Stuessi thinks they’re likely to look for a middle ground between the existing code and the blanket ban.

“There’s some individuals in the community who are running a very respectful business out of their home,” he said. “That’s something that our board’s giving consideration to.”

Instead, the board wants to focus on what the mayor called “investor zombie homes,” and to identify properties that are being rented out from afar as opposed to homes where the owners are local. To do that, the board is considering a registration system.

Last week, The Real Deal reported that the village is also implementing software to scrape the internet for illegal rentals.

Limits on short-term rentals would likely increase demand for hotels and motels, though it is not clear they need it. Many have been purchased and spruced up by investors, who have raised prices. A stay this weekend at the Greenporter Hotel downtown starts at $359 a night, and during summer weekends rooms at seaside North Fork establishments can exceed $1,000.

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North Fork eyeing big short-term rental changes
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