As a state legislative commission explores ways to regulate the growing short-term rental industry, the city of Newport has launched its own effort to crackdown on what it considers illegal short-term rentals, primarily in residential areas.
A compliance officer was hired, and the city is determined to rid itself of illegal short-term rental units that Mayor Xay Khamsyvoravong says are “endangering the character of our neighborhoods.”
The mayor sees the “crackdown” as among the city’s major efforts in 2023, enforcing stringent policies adopted by the City Council in the spring.
Regulation of short-term rentals is not just a Newport issue, it’s shared by communities, primarily shoreline communities, around the state. In fact, according to the state registry, Narragansett, with nearly 1,000 units, tops the list, with Newport second.
However, those numbers could be misleading, since they reflect only those rentals that are legally registered with the state.
At issue in Newport, the mayor says, are the illegal units, those stand-alone units scattered in the city’s neighborhoods. According to the city’s policy, the only short-term rentals permitted in residential neighborhoods are those within a home that serves as the owner’s primary residence.
Short-term rentals are also allowed in general business and waterfront business zones. All short-term rentals are subject to regulations that range from maximum length of stay (30 days) to parking.
In October, the city hired Drew Estabrook, who at one time was a general manager at Oceancliff, as the city’s Short-Term Rental Supervisor. For 30 years, Estabrook worked for Vacation Resorts International, mostly as Director of Educational Services.
“We’ve resourced up our enforcement mechanism,” the mayor says.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Lauren Carson, D-Newport, chairs a legislative study commission that’s reviewing local policies in the cities and towns where nearly 5,000 short-term rentals are registered.
Khamsyvoravong, who serves on the commission, says conditions in communities vary widely, but is hopeful the commission will present legislation during this General Assembly session.