Portland housing committee asks for six-month moratorium on short-term rentals

Portland: Portland’s housing committee is asking the city council to order a six-month moratorium on new short-term rentals in non-owner-occupied homes.

The moratorium was proposed during a meeting and public hearing on Thursday regarding a raft of proposed amendments to tighten Portland’s short-term rental rules.

Committee members were poised to debate and vote on the changes but chairwoman Jill Duson delayed deliberations as one committee member, councillor Pious Ali, was unable to attend the meeting.

The members agreed a moratorium was needed as city staff believed the number of non-owner-occupied rentals listed on short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb may exceed the 300-unit cap on mainland Portland that was established by the 2017 rental ordinance.

Landlords in multi-unit buildings have been allowed to register more than one apartment in their building as owner-occupied and not breach the limit. City staff previously thought there were only 125 non-owner-occupied units when in reality there may be as many as 320 units.

New amendments to the short-term rental ordinance proposed by mayor Ethan Strimling and councillors Kim Cook and Belinda Ray are aimed at preventing the spread of non-owner-occupied rentals that have been blamed for taking long-term properties off the market and adding to Portland’s affordable housing crisis.

Another proposal was to enforce stricter registration requirements.

More than a dozen short-term rental owners and advocates criticised the proposals during the public hearing as they said short-term rentals were being made into a scapegoat for Portland’s broader affordability issues driven by rising living standards and other factors.

Others, like Scott Lindsay, the owner of four short-term rentals in the Old Port, said they felt ‘betrayed’ by elected officials. He said he was registering his units and following the rules to the letter and now felt he had to come out and fight for his position again.

He told the committee: “I am so frustrated and shocked. It seems to be everything is on the table again. It is awful.”