How common are short-term rentals in Saranac Lake?
By AARON CERBONE
Adirondack Daily Enterprise
SARANAC LAKE – New data from a Village Report on Short-Term Rentals shows that although vacation rentals make up just 4% of Village residences, the number of STRs in Saranac Lake has increased by 60% over the past three years, and the vast majority of these new listings are second homes or apartment buildings.
For months, the village’s discussion on whether to regulate holiday rentals by introducing a permit system has been stalled pending this data. With data now available, the village council is planning a working session on Monday so members can voice their opinions and indicate the direction they want to take with possible STR regulations, but it will likely be a few months before they don’t vote. .
“We still have a time window, but it’s closing,” trustee Melinda Little said.
Little, who also leads the village’s housing task force, said if the village wants to create regulations to support its affordable housing goals and maintain its neighborhoods, it will have to do so soon, but she doesn’t want to rush. .
Vacation rentals have been accused by some locals of contributing to the affordable housing crisis by turning apartments into visitor accommodation. Some landlords and STR supporters say they use their properties to supplement their income, and rentals help ensure they can pay their mortgages.
The report, from tracking software company STR Rentalscape, cost the village $7,500, but Little said it was the only way for the village to get the actual numbers.
There are 2,913 residential units in the village, said village community development manager Jamie Konkoski, of which 4% are STRs.
Administrator Rich Shapiro called the number “good news”. He said that means STRs probably don’t have a “significant impact” on the available housing stock, but still create a significant gap.
Growth in vacation rentals
The report identified 70 village properties with STRs and 117 listings for those properties.
The number of STRs has risen sharply in recent years, the report says. Vacation rental apps have also become more common in recent years.
In 2013 and 2014, only one new DOS was listed per year. Aside from a peak in 2017 with 10 new listings, the village saw an average of four or five new rentals each year until 2019, when there was a sharp increase again. Over the next three years, there were 12 to 17 new rentals each year, an average increase of approximately 16.5%.
David Lynch, a local activist who attended a village board meeting on Monday, pointed out that the data was for live listings and was generated on September 16, after Labor Day, and when tourism started to slow down.
The Rentalscape report acknowledges this, saying that “the data does not represent the total number of active short-term rentals each year, as it does not include listings that are no longer active”.
Data generated in July showed 80 properties with 120 listings in the village.
Little said the report was created to identify “general trends.”
Homes and investment properties
Until 2019, the majority of new STRs were primary residences – someone renting out their own home, or part of it. Then, in 2019, second home rentals exploded and became more common.
Data from Rentalscape shows that 56, or 80%, of all STRs in the village are now second homes or investment properties.
This year, all but one of the 17 newly added STRs were second homes. Last year, all but two of the 15 new rentals were second homes. In 2019, all but two of the 10 new rentals were second homes.
Little said she supports the companies, but finds it “concerning”.
“These are the types of investments that reduce the possibilities for long-term rentals,” she said.
She said she would like to look at regulating these types of properties more stringently or differently than primary residence rentals.
“It’s a business operation,” Shapiro said. “It’s not someone who rents out part of their house, who rents out a room. … It’s a separate entity that’s there specifically for the rental.
He said having a vacation rental for extra income is “okay” and leaves a neighborhood “untouched.” He said second home STRs are like businesses and said the village council should discuss whether they can be allowed in residential zoned districts without commercial zoning.
Still, he added, he thinks a vacant property is worse than an STR investment.
Some association activists, such as Fred Balzac, have proposed a hard cap, limiting the number of STR authorized in the village. Shapiro said he wasn’t suggesting that, but he said the board should talk about it.
Who are the owners of STRs?
According to the data, the majority of STR properties, 43 of them, are owned by Saranac Lakers. Seven are owned by people living in the state, but outside the village. Six are owned by out-of-state residents.
A majority of STR hosts, 64 of them, host a property, according to the report. Five host two properties and one hosts three.
According to the Rentalscape report, the majority of STR owners, 67 of them, own property. Two own two properties, one owns five properties, and 12 are owned by an LLC, trust, or corporation.
Of the 70 properties found by the Rentalscape report, 64 were full unit rentals and six were partial unit rentals.
Airbnb was the most popular platform for listing rentals, and some were listed on multiple sites. The report found 69 listings on Airbnb, 18 on VRBO and one on Homeaway.
The report includes a map showing the number of STRs in each of the 12 village zoning districts. The area with the most rentals is the neighborhood on the western shore of Flower Lake, near Dewey Mountain. The neighborhood around North Country Community College has 11. Downtown has 10. The rest of the districts have single-digit STR numbers.
At a board meeting on Monday, village mayor Clyde Rabideau said he “acquiesced” when trustees Little and Kelly Brunette wanted to wait for a vote from the STR register until they have the data from Rentalscape, and asked them if now that they had the data if they’d be ready to move on.
Brunette and Little said they would first like to discuss the board’s vision for Saranac Lake.
Little said the village’s housing task force would have to release its final plan first. She expects that plan to be completed by the end of November or early December. She also said the village will need to review existing laws and codes before voting. She said she hopes to do all of this before the next village elections, in the spring of 2022, which will see a change of mayor and council members.
Monday’s council business meeting will be held at Harrietstown Town Hall at 5:30 p.m.