The following represents a detailed list of concerns and facts many of Chatham residents have already presented to the Town Board, either in person at the Town Board meetings or in emails that have been submitted for the record.
WE HAVE A LACK OF LODGING IN AREA:
Tourism is the #1 revenue source in Columbia County. Short-term rentals and vacation homes fill the gap of the lack of lodging facilities, increasing revenue for local businesses and restaurants, which in turn generates revenue for the town. There are few B&Bs in Chatham and only one motel, which is heavily occupied by residents that the county houses who are in need, leaving few rooms for transient guests.
SHORT-TERM RENTALS VS LONG-TERM RENTALS:
The Board has said that STRs cut down on the inventory of homes for long-term rentals for residents, but in fact the short-term and long-term markets are separate inventories. To rent long-term is to shut the owner out of his/her property. Owners rent short-term so as to have the use of their own homes when they want to be there. And when they are not there, another family can be, and can be introduced to the advantages the town and the area has to offer. It means that the home is vacant less frequently, which means more families meeting their food, clothing, drug store, liquor store, health food store, gasoline, etc. needs more days out of the year. It is known as the “sharing economy.”
STRs SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES:
Promoting tourism positively affects the local businesses in the Town of Chatham. The more money our local businesses make, the more money the town makes. Homeowners who rent provide their guests with lists of local restaurants, food stores, farm stands, theatres, concerts, historic sites, and all manner of local events. STR Owners also employ local housekeepers, landscapers, snow plowers, contractors and trades people. Short Term Rentals equal local jobs.
STRs CREATE JOBS:
Many owners of STRs hire people to assist them in managing their rental properties—cleaning staff, snow plowing, yard maintenance, garbage pick up, contractors, etc. STRs depend on local workers to help them maintain their properties to keep them clean and orderly. These are not “employees” but independent contractors who rely on this work for survival.
PROMOTION OF FAMILY:
There are several elements to a STRs value in the promotion of families:
- From the perspective of locals who have to move from the area for employment, using the home they either grew up in (or purchased as a young adult) as a STR allows them to maintain roots in Chatham and visit family still living here. The bond to Chatham is strong, especially with people born and raised here. If they rented these homes year-round, it would eliminate their ability to have a home away from home, sharing their history with their own children for years to come.
- Many former full-time Chatham residents want to retire here. Renting their homes makes it possible for them to enjoy their final years in a community they know and love.
- As for visitors, families want to rent an entire home that is in a central location to their other family members. Chatham is a perfect meeting spot for people living in Boston, NYC, or beyond. Many families searching for central locations have never even heard of Chatham before, but upon coming here, fall in love with our town – eating in our restaurants and shopping in our stores… and potentially visiting again or even moving here one day.
MISINFORMATION ABOUT STR PROCESS:
When it comes to concerns of unruly guests, perhaps the Board isn’t aware of the rigid review process of STR sites, like Airbnb. Not only do guests rate their hosts, hosts also rate their guests. Hosts are allowed to state “House Rules,” which can be as strict as the host wants and needs. The guests must confirm that they will adhere to those rules. Homeowners can even filter who can “instantly book” by choosing not to allow those who don’t have past positive reviews from previous hosts the capability of booking without the host being able to investigate them further.
STRs ARE NOT HOME BUSINESSES:
The IRS does not recognize either long-term or short-term rental properties as businesses. They are “sharing economy.” The IRS has no requirement as to the number of days a unit is rented in order to qualify as a rental property.
Both long-term rental revenues and STR revenues are recorded in a Schedule E on IRS tax returns. The only time a short-term rental property would be reported on a Schedule C (business income reporting form) would be if they also provided “substantial services that are primarily for your tenant’s convenience such as regular cleaning, changing linens or maid service.” That is not the norm for short-term rentals.
Additionally, if STRs were recognized as “home businesses” by the federal government, they would be required to collect a self-employment tax. They are not.
Bottom-line: Non-resident short-term rentals are not businesses. They are rental properties. They are ONLY businesses if the owner provides maid service and special services that a hotel or motel would provide, which has nothing to do with the number of days an owner occupies the home.
If the federal government does not view STRs as home businesses, it is an egregious overreach for a town government to do so.
MAINTENANCE OF THE PROPERTY:
The Board has said that short-term rentals will result in run-down homes, to the detriment of local property values. The opposite is true. Long-term rentals can result in poor up-keep, but short-term rental home owners must attract the public by posting photos of their homes online. The more attractive and well maintained the home, the more interest in the rental, so the homes must at all times look their best.
Additionally, if the property is poorly maintained, the negative guest reviews will pour in, decreasing the odds of someone staying again. An incentive to maintain a beautiful property is built into the entire STR model.
There is a severe tax consequence by banning STRs that will impact the town’s finances and second homeowners’ property tax deductions. Under the new tax laws, a citizen can only deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes. However, second-home owners who use their properties for STRs can then deduct those property taxes when they file their rental income on their tax return. The proposed zoning law change will eliminate a homeowner’s ability to claim the real estate tax deduction of their rental property, making buying vacation and second homes in the town of Chatham undesirable, at best. They’ll be buying in Kinderhook, Canaan and other neighboring towns.
Realtors should be aware that by denying these people the opportunity to rent their properties, for which they can deduct their properties’ real estate taxes on their Schedule Es, will lead to a lot of high-end homes being put back onto the market. With the new zoning laws making buying second homes challenging, the result will be a lack of buyers and neglected, vacant properties. Property values will lower town-wide and so will the town’s tax base.
REAL ESTATE VALUES:
STRs not only improve values through the upkeep of these homes, but they house and introduce new visitors to the area who come back, and in some cases result in the purchase of a home in Chatham. Many rentals are made to house-hunting families who need a place to stay while they search for a new home.
LOW IMPACT ON THE TOWN’S RURAL CHARACTER:
Whole house rentals require no new building, no new infrastructure, no new power lines or sources of water. They utilize homes that already exist, have already been inspected for capacity, water, septic systems, etc. They in no way harm the charm or rural nature of the area. They fit right in because they are already here.
If we want to attract the next generation of tourists to this town, we need to embrace the way THEY travel now… which is via Airbnb, HomeAway, and other short-term rental apps. The younger generations do not want to stay in hotels or motels. They want the feeling of a home. It’s the way of the future. Gen-Xers and millennials don’t tend to take month-long summer vacations, as their parents might have done, but seem to prefer shorter more frequent travel to explore new areas. They need short-term rentals, and that need will continue to rise as their incomes increase and their family expands.
FUTURE GROWTH OF CHATHAM:
The Old Chatham Shaker Museum will move into the old furniture building by the circle, bringing more tourists to our community. If Chatham had more lodging options, these tourists would stay, dine and shop in Chatham. There is talk of a new hotel in Chatham. Terrific. There will still be a need for travelers, especially ones with children, who prefer a whole-house rental.
There is room for all. Everyone benefits from a vibrant and relevant town!