The sun sets on Portland in November. According to city records, an Airbnb unit offered at the Planning Board chair's building was not legally licensed. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — The head of the city’s Planning Board listed a short-term rental on Airbnb last week that was not properly permitted at the time, according to city records.

A search of Portland’s self-service records portal reveals no short-term permit applied for or granted to Maggie Stanley, chair of Portland’s Planning Board, for a unit in the two-unit building she owns in the Woodfords Corner neighborhood. Likewise, no short-term permit was issued to Maggie Stanley’s sister, Emma Stanley, who currently rents the unit.

Maggie Stanley also did not hold a valid long-term rental permit for the apartment at the time it was listed on Airbnb, according to city records.

In a city facing an intense housing crunch, a city official listing a unit as an Airbnb was seen by some as a divisive issue.

On Monday, Maggie Stanley said she had no intention of circumventing any city regulations and the lack of valid permits was a simple oversight and mixup on her part and her and her sister.

The Stanleys’ first-floor unit was listed on Airbnb for $103 per night. On Thursday, the listing was deleted.

“My sister posted it and it was listed prematurely,” Maggie Stanley said. “I wish she hadn’t done that.”

Maggie Stanley has been on the Planning Board since February 2016. The board reviews and decides on all major development proposals in Portland. It does not oversee short- or long-term rentals.

Since Emma Stanley is often out of town as a traveling musician, renting the unit on Airbnb seemed like a good way for her to make money while away, Maggie Stanley said.

“My sister and I are just both trying to survive,” Maggie Stanley said. “I don’t want my sister to ever come home to Portland and not have a place to live.”

However, Maggie Stanley’s long-term rental permit for the unit was revoked for non-payment of the licensing fee at the end of last year. She reapplied for it on Wednesday, after the initial Bangor Daily News story ran. It has not yet been granted.

Emma Stanley also applied for a tenant-occupied short-term rental permit on Friday, at least three days after the Airbnb listing went live and a day after its deletion. The permit was granted the same day and a site inspection was scheduled for Monday.

Portland’s short-term housing rules are complicated. There are four different kinds of permits: island permits, tenant-occupied permits, owner-occupied permits and non-owner-occupied permits, each with different rules. Emma Stanley applied for a tenant-occupied permit, which doesn’t have a cap on the number of units that can be licensed in the city. A tenant may sublet their unit as a short-term rental as long as they have landlord approval.

Some local short-term housing foes like Karen Synder think city officials shouldn’t rent out Airbnbs during a historic housing crunch.

“Maggie Stanley knows the housing issues,” said Snyder, a Portland resident. “To do this is egregious.”

Snyder, who is not related to Portland Mayor Kate Snyder, said short-term rentals hurt Portland’s residential neighborhoods by removing long-term rental units from the market, which in turn creates scarcity, driving up prices.

Recent studies identified the Portland-South Portland area as the epicenter of Maine’s current housing crunch, stating it was at least 8,000 units short. Last year, Portland ranked among the top 20 U.S. cities with the most expensive rents with a median, one-bedroom apartment going for $1,777 per month.

The Stanleys had not relisted their unit on Airbnb as of midday Monday. Maggie Stanley said she was not sure if they would.

“I don’t know right now,” she said. “I’m tired of this whole situation. I just wanted to support my sister.”

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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.