SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Short-term rentals have established themselves as mainstays of the Sullivan County area over the past few years. Platforms like Airbnb and VRBO gave visitors additional …
SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Short-term rentals have established themselves as mainstays of the Sullivan County area over the past few years. Platforms like Airbnb and VRBO gave visitors additional options as they visited the county, and have encouraged county residents to rent out spare rooms or even entire properties.
Municipalities across Sullivan County have begun to examine how to regulate the short-term rental market, as the River Reporter has previously covered. But the rentals aren’t just a Sullivan County phenomenon, and conversations are taking place regionally and nationally about how to regulate them.
One train of thought sees short-term rentals as a boon for the towns and villages that host them. More beds available means more visitors, and more visitors means more money floating around in the local economy.
Pam Knudsen works as an executive at Avalara, a tax-compliance platform that helps simplify the process of owning a short-term rental. Airbnbs can be a revenue driver for municipalities, she said, especially now that marketplaces are starting to be required to ensure that taxes are paid.
Sullivan County’s county-level government did that in 2022, inking agreements with short-term rental marketplaces to ensure that rentals are paying the county’s five-percent room and occupancy tax.
More money for local governments is an easy selling point for short-term rentals. What’s less settled is how to handle their other impacts.
Municipalities have started to regulate elements of short-term rental operations like the trash they generate, the parties they host and the fire safety rules by which they must abide, said Knudsen.
“That is a really common practice that’s happening across the country,” she said; full-time local citizens are saying they don’t want party houses in their neighborhoods.
There are pros and cons to every solution, she says. If you eliminate short-term rentals, what happens to the local economy? Homes that are currently in use as short-term rentals may not be suitable for use as apartments, but the money they generate could be earmarked for the creation of affordable housing.
Knudsen encourages municipalities to consider what problems they’re trying to solve with short-term rental regulation, and to use a data-driven approach to understand the economic impact those regulations might have.
“I think it is imperative that they bring the short-term rental owners in the area into the conversation,” said Knudsen: they have a vested interest in the community they’re in.
The Hudson Valley advocacy group For the Many sits very much on the other side of the aisle. In the organization’s view, short-term rentals—particularly vacation rentals, properties bought by absentee investors for the sole purpose of short-term rental—play a significant role in driving up rents and limiting housing stocks.
For the Many launched a campaign in July called Homes are not Hotels, pushing for municipalities to ban vacation rentals. The housing that’s available on the market should be available for long-term residents, not exploited by landlords or investors, said Brahvan Ranga, For the Many political director.
Poughkeepsie, Newburgh and Kingston are all working through some version of short-term rental regulation, said Ranga; the current draft of the Kingston regulations doesn’t go far enough for the group’s liking, but they’re working on it. “If regulations aren’t iron clad, they’re going to be exploited.”
It’s not fundamentally about being for or against municipal tax dollars, but it’s about what’s best for cities, said Ranga. In his view, policies should reflect the fact that prices for working class families are increasingly unaffordable.
“I don’t think that allowing residents to get priced out and just taxing short-term rentals is a solid policy solution,” he said.
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