PORTLAND — City councilors are hoping an incentive they have laid out for owners of short-term rentals will help increase the stock of housing for the chronically homeless and lower-income residents struggling with housing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The City Council Monday unanimously agreed to offer owners of non-owner occupied, short-term rental units a one-time $1,000 payment if they make the units available for at least a year to people receiving Section 8 or general assistance. The owners would be able to convert back to short-term rentals after a year if the city’s cap of 400 non-owner occupied units has not been exceeded.

Of the 872 short-term rental units in the city, 400 are in buildings that are not occupied by the unit’s owner, according to the 2019 Housing Report. Short-term rentals include those marketed through Airbnb and other vacation and temporary lodging services.

The incentive would be funded with $25,000 from the city’s Housing Trust Fund. The offer is available until June 17, 30 days after the city’s emergency order related to the coronavirus is set to end, but is limited to the first 25 short-term rental owners who apply. The Housing Trust Fund is intended to address the housing needs for very low, low and median income households. Since 2011, it has helped to create 208 low income, 12 workforce and nine market rate units within six projects.

Short-term rental operators have been prohibited from renting out their units since late March as part of the city’s attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is about incentivizing units that have been used for lodging to come back into housing, specifically housing for people who receive some sort of assistance with their housing payments,” Councilor Kimberly Cook said Monday.


Councilor Tae Chong said he doesn’t know if there will be any takers, but it is worth finding out.

“For me it is about the demand. If we can get one or two, it is a success. If we get more than that, it is a home run,” he said.

If short-term rental owners don’t take the city up on its offer, Chong said he would like to see the designated funding go to renters and businesses struggling to pay their rent.

Councilor Spencer Thibodeau had not been supportive of the measure before, but on Monday joined his colleagues in doing so.

“This incentive for this purpose is a good one,” he said.

Councilor Jill Duson called it a “small, but effective” incentive toward long-term rentals.

To qualify for the incentive, the short-term rental owner would have to show the city proof of a one-year lease.

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