Newport, RI’s AirBnB Crisis: Time For A Ban?

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Should Newport just ban AirBnb?

It’s hard to see how Newport could ban AirBnb for legal guest houses. There are actual Newport bed and breakfasts who list rooms on the site and it’s essentially it’s just positioning itself as a middleman. It’s the middleman who’s supposed to make sure all of their permits are in order.

There are options for the city though. One might be to shift noise complaints from the tenants who are about to skip town, never to return…to the landlord, whose address (at least one of them) the police know and whose property the city can put a lien on.

Newport has its noisy neighborhoods and its quiet neighborhoods, ¬†its party houses and its family houses. The trick is to prevent people who don’t live at the houses they own in town from profiting as they ruin quiet, friendly neighborhoods and to have mechanisms in place that deter that from happening.

Hands Off?

We could simply let every homeowner in Newport go hog-wild with short-term rentals. Eventually the city would find a new equilibrium. Prices for hotels and AirBnBs would eventually drop as supply finally outpaced demand. Demand might drop as Newport’s celebrated chefs and bartenders move on to more affordable cities to make a living. The town loses a bit of its magic as the music and arts scene dries up (because if chefs and bartenders can’t afford it here, the musicians and artists will really be SOL).

Then the city brings out all the hotel tax money generated in the process and decides how to move on from there. Perhaps they can buy an old cruise ship, dock it at Navy Pier 2 and let people live on it for the summer months. It would seem like an appropriately “Newport” solution.


Ultimately the way to make most people happy is to avoid the extremes. We want people to have the option to stay at a place that is not a hotel room without allowing a city’s worth of apartments to turn into suites. Newport could cap the number of short-term rentals at one apartment per address, ¬†thereby hopefully allowing the other 1-2 to be rented out long term. We could create a lottery where landlords apply to get one of X number of short-term rental licences for a year or summer.

Whichever system Newport comes up with to deal with the situation, it must be coupled with rigorous enforcement of the ordinances, otherwise none of the rules might as well exist. That’s was the situation we were looking at until this week

Other cities and towns have seen themselves transformed by AirBnb and they couldn’t respond until it was too late. Newport has had some experience with these short-term rentals and is only now seeing the excesses that have really changed America’s major cities. The City of Newport has just dropped $30k on that Host Compliance contract. We need to make sure that it is used effectively and not simply allowed to expire having had no effect on the situation.

As much as a tourist resort as Newport is, we need to put our residents first.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Rental Correspondent

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Tristan's just this guy, ya know?