In this Maine Public file photo, South Portland City Councilor Claude Morgan stands near Willard Beach, where his neighborhood has seen an increase in short-term rentals, like those organized through the website Airbnb. Credit: Nora Flaherty | Maine Public

South Portland residents Tuesday endorsed an ordinance that bans some short-term rentals in the city. Short-term rentals have become increasingly common — and controversial — over the last few years, and the ordinance itself was the result of a long and contentious debate.

Both sides framed their arguments as defending property rights, with proponents saying it would protect neighborhoods and help keep the housing crunch from getting worse.

Claude Morgan is a city councilor representing District 1, which includes the popular Willard Beach area. He says it would have been irresponsible of the city not to do something.

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“The city really just had to draw the line, a city that’s already starved for housing stock,” Morgan says. “We have literally hundreds of houses that could be lived in by families that are off the market as a result of this race to make a dollar.”

John Murphy, a short-term rental owner and one of the leaders of the group that opposed the ordinance, says it’s “overregulation” and he’s disappointed.

“I think what they’ve done is they’ve been able to regulate it out of existence with what they’ve done,” Murphy says, “because most people don’t go on vacation and rent a home with the homeowner staying in it. It’s just not how it works.”

[Mainers made $40M off of Airbnb rentals this summer, company says]

Supporters say the ordinance, which only prohibits unhosted rentals in residential areas of the city, won’t prevent people from making money, since even those who won’t be able to rent their homes short-term can rent them on a longer-term basis.

In an emailed statement, Airbnb says the ordinance will be felt by the nearly 200 South Portland residents who “depend on the extra income they make from sharing their home.”

The measure passed by a vote of 6,375 to 5,378.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

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