Hudson officials consider limiting short-term rentals

Amanda Purcell Columbia-Greene MediaJanuary 22, 2019 10:04 pm

HUDSON — City leaders are considering regulating short-term vacation rentals in the city.

Short-term rentals available through web-based platforms such as Airbnb allow people to rent rooms or an entire home for extra cash to vacationers looking for an alternative to nearby hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts.

Those rentals are big business in Hudson. Airbnbs took in over $5 million in the Hudson area in 2017.

Nearly 300 active vacation rentals are listed in the 12534 area code, which includes the town of Greenport and parts of Stockport, Livingston and Claverack, according to AirDNA, which collects market data on Airbnb.

“In the past five years, there has been a significant increase in the number of Hudson residents who have decided to open their home to short-term rentals,” according to the Strategic Housing Action Plan, a report on housing presented by the Housing Task Force to the city in May 2018.

The recent increase of short-term rentals has prompted some municipalities to take a step back, look at regulations to preserve the existing strained housing market and cash in on the tourism economy.

To date, Hudson has passed a law taxing those who stay at short-term rentals, but no existing laws limit the number of short-term rentals.

But that could change soon. The issue will be up for discussion at this month’s Legal Committee meeting Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. at City Hall.Upsides vs. downsides

Fourth Ward Alderman Rich Volo, who supplements his income by renting the first floor of his home, sees the economic benefits short-term rentals bring to the city’s economy.

There are no 75-plus room chain hotels in Hudson and the Common Council passed a local law in 2018 that essentially banned chain businesses from setting up shop in the city.

Short-term rentals can fill a void when it comes to lodging for special events, such as when multiple weddings are in town, and allow people to stay within walking distance of the events, Volo said.

“There is a cultural shift happening, also,” Volo said. “People don’t necessarily want to stay in these major corporate-like hotels. People are looking for a more authentic experience and that is why they are coming to an Airbnb.”

The lodging industry brought in $7.5-8 million in 2017, said Volo, who is head of the city Economic Development Committee of the Common Council.

“You can probably double that number if you include food and retail,” Volo said. “It’s a $15 million to $20 million annual industry just within the city of Hudson.”

Weddings and other events are the “bread and butter” for a lot of local businesses, Volo said.

“That is a significant income for the city, as well as for local merchants and people who have shops in Warren Street,” Volo said. “They [lodgers] are buying coffee at Moto (Coffee Machine) and Supernatural Coffee and Bakery and going to restaurants in town. This Airbnb economy, like it or not, shows people are staying in town and shopping in town and helping pay the property taxes for businesses.”

But if left unregulated, some are concerned short-term rentals could take critical residential housing out of the market, driving up the cost of rents citywide.

The city is undergoing a housing affordability crisis, according to the Strategic Housing Action Plan. There are 3,406 housing units, 83 percent of which are occupied in Hudson, according to U.S. Census data. More than half the people who live in the city, or 66 percent, are renters, according to the data.

“It just seems more like there are more and more Airbnbs, and they are unoccupied and they appear like gaps in our streetscape,” city resident Claudia Bruce said at the meeting of the Common Council on Jan. 7. “It was a while back that this was talked about, and I think we’ve lost a lot of neighbors in the meantime. It’s disturbing.”

For landlords, tourists can sometimes pay much more than tenants. A person spent an average of $768 per month for an apartment with utilities between 2013 and 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

Meanwhile, vacation rentals listed on the Airbnb charged an average of $204 a night in 2018, according to Hudson’s Strategic Housing Action Plan. In other words, if a unit is occupied for three days in the month, the renter could surpass the average rent in Hudson.

There is no city law requiring Airbnbs to undergo routine safety inspections required for hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts. The tests include working fire alarms, emergency exits, sprinklers, fire alarms or carbon monoxide detectors.Regulation

The Strategic Housing Action Plan recommends the city set up a permitting system to enforce all regulations established regarding short-term rentals. A registry for short-term rentals under the lodging tax has been compiled.

The city’s lodging tax, which was passed in 2017, requires operators of short-term rentals for less than 30 days — including those renting through the websites Airbnb and VRBO — to register with the city clerk, who would collect a 4 percent tax from visitors, part of which would be used to promote tourism in Hudson.

The final accounting has not been completed for 2018 because the fourth-quarter tax was being collected in January, City Treasurer Heather Campbell said at the Finance Committee meeting of the Common Council held Jan. 15.

In terms of managing the number of short-term rentals, Common Council President Thomas DePietro has tasked the Legal Committee to look into a moratorium on future, non-owner-occupied Airbnbs while the city works out a long-term solution to managing the number of short-term rentals, he said at the Jan. 7 Common Council meeting.

The owner would have to live at the property for a designated amount of time during the year, 4th Ward Alderman John Rosenthal said.

DePietro agreed, saying the house next to his is vacant. At this time, he said, there is no law that could be adapted by the city from other municipalities that would retroactively ban short-term rentals or set regulations for existing Airbnbs.

“To have a moratorium would be more feasible at this point,” DePietro said.