On Tuesday, the latest draft of the legislation to regulate short term rentals (STRs) in Hudson was posted on the City of Hudson website. Reaction from various sources seemed to indicate that the new version was something that was generally acceptable to most people. At the beginning of last night's committee meeting, committee chair John Rosenthal optimistically opined, "I'm pretty sure we're about at the last draft."
The meeting began with a PowerPoint presentation meant to provide the data that justified the committee's sense of urgency in adopting the STR legislation. The presentation can be found here. It begins with a quote from Hudson's Strategic Housing Action Plan, which was adopted by the Common Council in 2018.
Another issue associated with Airbnb is the pressure it puts on the long-term rental market. A property owner may find that renting their property or part of their property to numerous short-term visitors through Airbnb is more profitable than renting to a single tenant with a traditional year-long lease. This is more likely to occur in popular tourist destinations where the property owner can charge a premium during popular times of the year and weekends. In some communities in the Hudson Valley, properties are being purchased for the express purpose of converting it for use as a short-term Airbnb rental. Taking property or rooms out of the long-term rental market reduces the housing stock for local residents and puts upward pressure on the price of the remaining long-term housing units.The PowerPoint presentation included information about properties now registered to operate as short term rentals (STRs) and an inventory of rooms currently available in hotels and bed and breakfasts in Hudson--accommodations that would not be affected by the law. Of interest among that information is that the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, which sees providing low- and moderate-income housing as part of its not-for-profit mission, "has registered, but may not be operating, 7 STRs with a total of 12 units." It was suggested by Council president Tom DePietro that the number of units registered by Galvan was closer to twenty. The remainder of the presentation was what Rosenthal described as "a raft of data from other communities" about the impact of STRs. The data related primarily to New York and Los Angeles, and it was all pre-pandemic.
When the discussion turned to the latest draft of the legislation, it focused on the amortization period, the time STRs that currently exist could continue to operate after they have deemed illegal by the proposed legislation. That would apply to all buildings operated as STRs that are not owner occupied. The latest draft of the legislation sets the amortization period at five years. The discussion began with committee member Rebecca Wolff declaring that she wanted the amortization period to be two years instead of five, arguing, "Five years is an extremely long time in the life of this city's housing issues." She described the situation as "very serious," spoke of an "urgent housing situation," and asserted "the character of the city is even more urgent."
Committee member Tiffany Garriga introduced a more draconian amortization period: six months. When advised by city attorney Jeff Baker that six months was too short for constitutional review, Garriga conceded, "One year is as far as I'll go," warning that, if the law had an amortization period of longer than one year, she would not support it. Rosenthal talked about community buy-in, stressing, "Some of the people who will be affected by this law live in this community," but Garriga would have none of it. She declared, "My people get knocked around. Now we want to make concessions for the very people who did that to them?" Rosenthal responded, "I want to do something reasonable and not invite rancor." During the meeting, Rosenthal spoke, in vain, it seems, of wanting to avoid rancor.
Responding to the claim of urgency, Rosenthal explained that a longer amortization period would not result in any new displacement attributable to STRs, because only STRs that were registered and operating before the moratorium, that is prior to February 2020, could continue to operate after the legislation was adopted. Wolff, however, insisted, "If we allow existing STRs to continue for five years, this town won't be recognizable," and declared, "I want properties [now operated as STRs] to be returned to long term rentals quicker."
When the meeting was opened to comments from the public, the number of people demanding the shortest amortization period possible seemed to be in the majority. There was also some exchange of judgment about the tenor of the meeting. Elizabeth Dickey told Rosenthal he needed "to move in the direction of respectfulness." Rosenthal responded, "We have to get to a point of compromise rather than going back to rehash something already settled." He added, "We are trying to weigh the effects if we get challenged"--that is, if the law faces a legal challenge.
Zia Anger asserted that "Airbnb is entirely antithetical to community," and someone identified only as Alex complained of people "taking housing stock off the market to use for personal profit." Monica Byrne called for a respectful discussion, saying it was not right demonize people and criticizing "yelling between and yelling at elected officials." Someone identified only as Anya, who had earlier revealed that she was afraid she would lose her apartment, objected to with she called Byrne's "tone policing," because "for some people this is a roof over their heads."
Some interesting points were made during the discussion. Peter Meyer argued that with this legislation the Legal Committee was "chasing after an illusive and wrong problem." He identified the real problems as landlords who own multiple properties, many of them vacant, and property taxes, which are so high that many people need to monetize their property in any way they can to afford to pay the taxes. He insisted, "There is no evidence that this legislation will do anything to lower rent in Hudson." The only basis for this is the notion that more available rental units would force landlords to be competitive in their pricing. Gossips recently learned of a one and a half bedroom apartment somewhere on Warren Street renting for $2,000 a month because presumably that's what the market will bear. If having more rental units available would change what the market will bear remains to be seen.
Steve Dunn advised an amortization period "that gets us past the next election"--that is, the next local election in November 2021. He also expressed the opinion that "the shorter the amortization period, the more vulnerable the law will be for repeal."
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