Red Hook Airbnb hosts oppose short-term rental restrictions

The City of Red Hook’s public hearing on Tuesday night regarding its proposed short-term rental bylaw resulted in a lively two-hour comment period both for and against the potential limitations on renting its home on Airbnb and other sites.

Under a recently tabled bill, all short-term rentals in Red Hook would need to register with the city to receive a business license. The permits, which will cost an as yet unspecified fee, will only be granted to homeowners who use their home as their primary residence. Once this residence has been determined, they can rent secondary accommodation (ADU), such as a studio or a renovated barn, or their accommodation when they are away.

City supervisor Robert McKeon said the proposed law was necessary to regulate a new shared economy and ensure that short-term rentals do not negatively impact surrounding neighbors. But the Red Hook Hosts Alliance, a coalition of short-term rental operators, has expressed concern that the law addresses a problem that doesn’t exist, while exacerbating a real problem: the lack of short term stays for visitors.

Others in opposition at Tuesday’s meeting echoed similar thoughts – that short-term rentals are good for Red Hook’s businesses and that there aren’t enough other options available. ‘accommodation.

“While there may be broader discussions about how short-term rentals may affect certain communities,” said Adrienne Truscott, director of public outreach for Red Hook Hosts Alliance, “it appears that a more nuanced conversation is needed for ours. “

Punitive law or community preservation?

Red Hook’s proposal differs from approaches in surrounding cities to regulating Airbnbs and other short-term rentals. In Woodstock, permits are required but only a limited number are in circulation. In the village of Rhinebeck, only 15 properties in a given year, chosen by a lottery system, can operate on short-term rental for a maximum of 16 days. The city of Milan, meanwhile, also requires short-term rentals to be the host’s primary residence and has imposed a 90-day maximum limit for stays, with a two-day break between rentals. In Red Hook, there is currently no limit to the number of permits that can be issued.

“It feels like there is a vague fear about a future possibility that is punitive and short-sighted for the people who actually exploit them and how they operate in the area,” said Truscott, who is currently based. in Brooklyn and owns a property in the Red Hook area.

Truscott said nearby Bard College relied on short-term rentals to house families and potential students and said Airbnbs was also serving other visitors she saw who were in the area to explore the area. nature.

As the Red Hook Act is currently being proposed, short-term rentals would be allowed throughout the year for up to 30 days at a time in residential areas, which make up 20% of the housing stock, according to McKeon.

Properties in more rural areas, which make up the remaining 80 percent of the city, will be allowed to serve as short-term rentals with no limit to the number of days a short-term tenant can stay – a clarification made in the second draft of the bill which formerly provided for a 120-day stay limit.

In either case, the licensed properties must be the owners’ primary residence.

For now, the Red Hook Hosts Alliance is encouraging the city to slow down the process and not rush into regulations.

“We would like to think that the city is open to the possibility of granting vested interests to people who have operated responsibly and successfully without any complaints or issues,” Truscott said. “Then we could think about what kinds of regulations would be appropriate and what services are coming up. “

However, McKeon said it wasn’t something he could see happening.

“In order to be fair in all of our zoning, we can’t ask most people to comply,” McKeon said. “We need to make sure everyone is treated equally and fairly. “

Primary residents vs. second home owners

Requiring a primary residence for owners looking to rent out their properties would prevent outside residents from buying a property, turning it into a short-term rental and then leaving the community, McKeon says.

Some secondary owners disagree. “I think for people who have invested time and money in their properties to make them attractive and who are counting on that as a piece of the pie to make ends meet at a time when it is really financially precarious for a lot of working adults, i think there is a lot of disagreement, “said Truscott.

Kristina Dousharm, Chair of the Economic Development Committee and a member of the Town of Red Hook Planning Council, also expressed concern that the law would prohibit secondary landowners, who are a healthy part of the population here and throughout the Hudson Valley, to host short term rentals.

“It’s unclear exactly what prompted the need to pass a law with what seems like a lot of restrictions to a lot of people,” Truscott said. “While no one might want Red Hook to be the tourism mecca, it does [is] it’s in the Hudson Valley there are lots and lots of businesses and farms that depend on visitors from [the] surroundings to contribute to the local economy.

As noted in local Red Hook law, the use of short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs, as an alternative to traditional accommodation has increased in the area in recent years, allowing more options for tourists and another means of income for property owners. At the same time, critics say such rentals can potentially have a negative impact on the character of the community if there are no city limits or approvals in place.

A survey conducted by the Economic Development Committee over the summer found that the city’s farms and businesses depend heavily on tourism for economic growth. Likewise, he found that the town – which only has one commercial accommodation business with the Hearthstone Motel, which is closed for renovations, Dousharm said – relies on the existence of short-term rentals. to support overnight visitors.

“We found no evidence that short-term rentals are eroding neighborhoods,” Dousharm said. “They actually give people an affordability option.”

Dousharm said she was also in favor of grandfathering protection at short-term rental hosts who were already operating in Red Hook.

Some residents have submitted written comments against short-term rentals at Red Hook, saying they don’t want the town to be made for weekends. Christine Gummere of Barrytown, a hamlet in Red Hook, wrote that she believes owners should always be on-site or nearby for short-term rentals; she added that they had had “unpleasant experiences” with short term rentals there.

The public hearing period will continue until the city council meeting on December 14. No date has been set for the Town of Red Hook to vote on the proposed measure. Public comments may also be submitted.

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