Sunday, June 7, 2020

Hudson and Short-Term Rentals

At the Common Council Housing and Transportation Committee meeting on Wednesday, Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) told her colleagues that the legislation to regulate short-term rentals, usually referred by the aldermen as Airbnbs or STRs, would be ready to be introduced at the informal meeting of the Council, which takes place tomorrow, Monday, June 8. The first draft of this legislation was posted on the Common Council of page city website on June 27, 2019, with the promise, on July 31, 2019, that the second draft would be posted soon. To my knowledge, no second draft was ever posted. 

The final draft of the legislation should be available on the city website sometime tomorrow, but in the meantime, here is some information about what's in the law, gleaned from the last Legal Committee meeting, which took place on May 27.
  • Any building with more than three units used for short-term rental cannot simply register with the code enforcement office. The owner must get a conditional use permit from the Planning Board.
  • A building used for short-term rental must be occupied by the owner and be the owner's primary resident. 
  • Proprietors of short-term rentals may own one building in addition to the one occupied by the owner, but it must be immediately adjacent to the building owned and occupied by that owner.
  • Buildings used for short-term rentals cannot be owned by an LLC or a corporation.
  • Someone who rents a property cannot use a part of that property for short-term rental. Only the owner of a building can operate an "Airbnb."
  • Only 50 percent of a building can be used for short-term rental. For every short-term rental unit in a building, there must be a long-term rental unit in that building.
During the discussion of this legislation at the Legal Committee, John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) explained, "My main goal is I don't want zombie homes." Typically, the term zombie homes refers to houses abandoned and deteriorating from neglect as a consequence of foreclosure. Rosenthal seemed to use it to describe houses that, although well maintained, are occupied only by transient visitors to the city. Rebecca Wolff described that goal of the legislation in this way: "We want [Hudson] to be a community where people live." She spoke of "people living in places where there are not neighbors."

At some point, Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council, suggested there be a variance provision, "if [owners] can show cause of unnecessary hardship." He outlined this scenario: "Someone bought a rundown house in Hudson, invested in improving it, but cannot make back the investment if the ability to use it as a short-term rental is prohibited." Wolff commented that this was "based on the notion that a profit is a God-given right." Baker responded, "This is a regulatory taking. There must be a way for them to mitigate the loss."


  1. Add this amazing anti-democratic legislation to the one the Mayor and his allies are sneaking through (the forty-year PILOT for our local plutocrat), and we get Covid Autocracy. Rebecca Wolff should start reading the Constitution--or even State and City law-- before declaiming on "God-given" rights. The people have rights under the law; one of which is a transparent and fair legislative process.

    1. Good Grief you are obsessed with the mayor.

    2. "Obsessed with the mayor"? Hardly. I'm a 30+-year resident and taxpayer of this down and care deeply about it. The Galvan Pilot and BnB legislation are bad for Hudson and bad for taxpayers.

  2. Greg O has submitted a comment which I will published in four parts. Here is Part 1:

    I'm disappointed to read this posting, it is very ICE in nature and not welcoming and inclusive as Hudson claims to be.

    What makes Hudson welcoming is not US vs THEM. It is the artists, farmers, restaurants, cafes, galleries, Opera House, street artists, bars, Hudson Public Library, diversity of the people living here and the people who enjoy visiting here. Warren Street is a gem. Let’s support not divide our community. Let’s discuss how to find common ground and not heavy-handed legislation that is not well thought out, nor is it welcoming.

    Benefits to short term renting: If Hudson gets higher property taxes and higher school taxes and the house is vacant 80% of the time, then the school districts benefit from these houses not adding to the stress of school systems. The sewage & water infrastructure benefits from less use, yet same tax on these houses. Fire, Hospitals & Police benefit. Crime is reduced from people coming to Hudson to relax for a weekend. Local shops on Warren Street benefit. I estimate that my house generates $400,000 per year of non-Hudson spending just on Warren street alone. Is it okay for antique stores, cafes, bars, restaurants, galleries, wine stores, specialty stores, upholstery stores, and bookstores to make a profit? Or, is that also not a god given right?

  3. Here is Part 2:

    If budgets are under stress today from COVID-19 and plenty of places are closing, closed or possibly being forced to close due to loss of economic activity, what is the plan to offset this loss of income and tax money?

    Less legislation, more dialogue with all parties, more listening, and much more foresight and planning is helpful. Pushing an agenda without giving us the economic impact is not going to create jobs.

    Real estate valuation is driven by employment and stability in income. If we help Hudson grow jobs, then more people who live in Hudson will feel like stake holders in the community. The Farmers market may look more like Upstate NY then Union Square. Or, maybe Warren St and other areas are a mix of upstate and downstate?

    I would be interested to hear what the politicians are doing for jobs, economic stability, crime prevention, and lower government spending from a lower tax base. If you want Hudson for Hudson residents only then count me out. I love Hudson for its diversity. I try to make the town a better community whether by fixing up my houses or hiring locally or growing my own vegetables. Each person can make a difference. Each house can make a difference. I know, I have had neighbors and politicians stop by my houses to thank me and ask me what my vision is or was, and “why Hudson”?

  4. Here is Part 3:

    What is wrong with fixing a beaten-up house, hiring local contractors, paying the city for building permits, inspections, hiring landscapers, gardeners, cleaners, painters, plasterers, sheetrock, flooring, paving a new sidewalk, stone masons, buying building materials locally, installing new windows, new efficient HVAC, roofers, gutters, plants at local nurseries, dumpsters, rocks, buy soil, plant gardens, creating driveways, planting trees on the new sidewalks, fixing structures, renovating kitchens, bathrooms, buying lots of garbage bags etc.

    When I first purchased a house in Hudson in 2005, much of Warren Street was boarded up and the town was generally more run down than today. Does Rebecca Wolf have a plan to lower our property taxes so home owners can rent to long term tenants? Just as it is not a God given right to make a profit, it is not a god given right to raise taxes every year, or, taxation without representation. Is it a god given right for politicians to push poor economic policy?

    What is Rebecca Wolf’s plan to lower our assessments from last year so we can lower her god given right to guarantee no profits? What are the public sectors plan to build affordable houses? Why is the private sector blamed for no local politician planning for the next 20 years? Is there a plan to hire Hudson’s youth? If the money from short term renters gone, what is the plan for lower property valuations that drive property taxes? There will be many restaurants closing in these difficult COVID-19 times. Do we want to roll back the clock?

  5. And final part, Part 4:

    May we discuss the murder that happened recently? What is the plan to reduce drugs and crime in town?

    I was happy to read an email that suggested these “outsiders” from NYC must be reminded to wear masks. I suppose we did not see our Hudson Mail person delivering mail without a mask. I drive by DMV daily. I see 75% of the people in line not wearing masks. Can we stop this false narrative about NYC & Boston STR not wearing masks or somehow hurting Hudson residents? I think the aspect people like about Hudson and the vibe in the community is how Hudson claims to welcome people from all walks of life. Let’s see this is legislation and driven by elected officials who have plans to drive housing, safety, security, lower taxes or spending, and create good paying jobs.

    Zombie houses are the ones we see that are owned and sat on for years. What is the plan to stop real zombie houses to get these properties on the property tax roll? I believe we all have a say in this and would love to have an open dialogue to reach a happy medium with all sides. This does not condone when any resident whether short term or long term do not create a good environment for all.

    Rebecca Wolf you do not represent everyone and all sides of this issue. Let’s not politicize housing and divide Hudson. Washington, DC does that enough for me. I welcome your ideas for jobs, lower taxes, affordable housing built by public sector, and your plans to reduce crime.

  6. The greatest owner of "zombie" houses in Hudson is Eric Galloway via Henry van Ameringen's great wealth, and who is currently doing the mayor's bidding for new "low income" projects.

    Rebecca Wolf is a total fraud. She's NYC trust fund former poet who hates herself and her life. Her building has been occupied by short term rentals many times since she has owned it - even if she would never classify them as such.

  7. As in all socialistic governments, this sort of complicated bureaucracy kills the business of making money and kills the ability to pay any sort of taxes.

    how about allowing small business people who individually own these airbnbs to rent them under the old terms that obviously worked ?

    wouldnt that be smarter ? and better for the long term health of Hudson ?

    This isnt big business doing this is it ??

  8. Mary Ann Gazzola submitted this comment by email, which will be published in two parts. Here's the Part 1:

    I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but Covid pretty much took care of our Airbnb “problem” for the time being. Less people coming, less to do when they get here, small businesses hanging on by a thread while they hope to be allowed to reopen.

    I was in Hudson during the ‘80s & ‘90s. You could take a nap in the middle of Warren Street and wouldn’t get run over. More action in Crack Alley than Warren St. There was plenty of affordable housing, because anyone who could afford it moved out of town. It was terrible.

    Tourism is a low-impact business. They come, they spend, they go home. We get income, sales tax, lodging and parking fees, with little impact on schools and other infrastructure. Our small businesses depend on tourism to stay afloat. With about 6000 residents in Hudson, and a large percentage of those low-income, there’s just no way possible for locals to keep these businesses afloat. I have actually never (but I’ll concede maybe it’s “rarely”) heard of disruptive behavior from these guests. In all the years I’ve been hosting (which actually predates the Airbnb company) I have never had a problem with guests. And I don’t know who’s claiming otherwise, but Airbnb properties in Hudson are kept in higher repair than others, because it’s a very competitive market to attract travelers here. From the travelers POV, rooms are needed at various price points. Not everyone can afford $300/night to stay at The Wick.

    Also, I’d like to address Rebecca Wolff’s comment about profit. If I understand her correctly, she says that profit is not a God-given right. It may not be God-given, but it’s the backbone of our society. The hope of every businessperson, large and small, is that, if they work their butt off, they get to keep something beyond basic subsistence. It could also apply to people who work for larger companies. If it’s not a right to profit, there would be no need for overtime pay, since a worker presumably already has enough to live from his base salary. No need for a new car. Your old one is still running. Her comment simply makes no sense from any perspective.

  9. Here is the continuation of Mary Ann Gazzola's comment:

    Re ownership through LLCs: many people have LLCs for liability purposes. Sometimes they’re just one person LLCs. They serve the same purpose as corporations do--legal protection for various reasons. It has no bearing on whether a property is maintained or not, nor does it mean the owner is hands-off, or that they own multiple buildings. It’s simply a legal way to hold ownership. The corner deli might be an LLC. Probably many of the small businesses on Warren are LLCs or incorporated.

    Also, although admittedly only having read the Gossips summary, I didn’t see a provision for pre-existing Airbnbs in non-conforming properties. The city really can’t rip people’s use of their property out from under them, especially with the higher taxes we were just saddled with, and the problems caused by Covid, without causing other problems: lawsuits, underground rentals, etc.

    I also want to add that I have no dog in this fight: my one Airbnb is in the 2-family house I actually live in, and conforms under all the provisions of the new law. In fact, it could be argued that I would profit by the city restricting new Airbnb’s by having less competition. However, that would be short-sighted on my part. For the good of the city’s economy at all levels, I firmly believe Hudson should happily collect its lodging tax, and keep restrictions to a minimum.

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