The two measures were discussed by the city’s Legal Committee this week, and the Committee’s chair, Alderman John Rosenthal, is in discussions with the City Attorney about writing them into a still-developing resolution that includes other regulations for short-term rentals (STR).
Hudson, a city of 6,200 located 30 miles south of Albany, has seen its tourism boom accelerate in recent years. Three hotels have opened in the city since late 2015, and STRs have cropped up with similar rapidity.
There are about 170 STRs, traditional bed-and-breakfasts and hotels registered with the city, according to Hudson City Assessor Justin Maxwell. STRs make up the vast majority of these, and conservatively make up ten percent of Hudson’s residential tax parcels.
The proposal seeks to regulate STRs and limit their number, in part because of the effect they have on the fabric of neighborhoods, and in part to try to deal with Hudson’s affordable housing crisis.
Rents in Hudson have gone up at least 300 percent since 2000.
The proposal seeks to make a distinction between property owners who list their personal living spaces on STR sites – “owner-occupied STRs” – and those who operate STRs where they don’t reside.
The proposal would limit property owners to listing two STRs – one owner-occupied and one non-owner-occupied. There would be no grandfather clause, so property owners with more than one non-owner occupied STR would have to give up listing these additional units.
The proposal is to be written into a resolution already including language that would require annual licensing of STRs with a fee of $500/year; would require non-owner occupied STRs to have property managers who could be at the unit within 15 minutes; and other regulations, such as requiring hosts to post maps of fire escape routes.
The resolution is still in draft form, and the proposal is still being modified.
Alderman Rosenthal said the proposal was seeking to avoid “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”
“We support owner-occupied Airbnbs as a source of income for people living at their property, but we’re trying to discourage rampant speculation in STRs in the city because of the role that it has in creating disruption in the community with transiency and tourism issues and also acknowledging that tourism is one of the economic drivers here,” he said.
Most property owners in the city on STR sites have only one listing, though there is a significant number who list multiple properties. Of the first 20 listed “Superhosts” on Airbnb in the city – a designation for highly reviewed hosts – four have multiple properties listed.
In part, the proposal is meant to address the shortage of affordable housing, Rosenthal said, under the assumption freeing up more properties would take pressure off the squeezed rental market.
However, Rosenthal said rental prices would not immediately plummet if the law is enacted because of the complex nature of the market and the amount of time it would take for results to be seen.
Hudson Mayor Rick Rector didn’t say whether he supported a moratorium or the proposals, citing their current fluidity, but said he generally supported owner-occupied STRs.
Non-owner occupied STRs were problematic for the city, Rosenthal said.
“The idea that you can speculate here and come into this community and buy multiple properties and run them as Airbnbs and kind of skirt by the regulations and not really have a stake here as a resident or a voter here in the city – we have to acknowledge this as a problem,” he said.
Some STR hosts with multiple listings are “getting away with basically having an unregulated hotel business,” Rosenthal said, and don’t have to abide by the regulations of the traditional hotels and bed-and-breakfasts in the city.
Some current STR operators might find limiting the rentals beneficial, as a glut of STRs could drag down the value of their listings, he added.
Christina Snyder, who manages six Airbnb listings, said she could see no evidence of a glut – the six units were booked solid on weekends for the next six months, and one of the units was reserved for the Summer of 2021.
The six units are all in one building and are owned by Mark Salomon, who also owns The Falls, a higher-end apartment complex and venue in Greenport, Snyder said.
STRs, whether owner-occupied or not, stimulate the local economy, Snyder said – Snyder’s Airbnbs have binders full of menus, events and coupons from other local businesses – as well as allowing budget visitors to stay in the city, as STRs are cheaper than the new luxury hotels.
The average Airbnb in the greater Hudson region – an area including many listings for full houses – is $147/night on weekdays, according to the site. Hotel rooms in the city range from a low of $99/night at the St. Charles Hotel to $450/night for a suite at Rivertown Lodge, according to the hotels’ websites.
The proposal to limit the number of listings per host was “ridiculous,” Snyder said, adding that doing so would “draw people out of Hudson.”
Snyder, who was born and raised in the city, said she believed the business she managed was making the city a better place.
“It just seems everything [people] bring to the county to make it a success – there’s always that one person who tries to see what’s not working and fight against it, and that’s the biggest challenge in Columbia County – no matter what someone wants to bring here, there’s always a fight against it.”
Columbia County Chamber of Commerce President Jeffrey Hunt said he was for the “common sense regulations” in the proposals, such as the fire safety measures, but was opposed to limiting the number of STRs.
“We are a tourist destination town and trying to limit the number of beds that we have available for people to rent – to me, that will only hurt the many venues that we have here and the retail establishments that we have here,” he said.
The property manager-availability requirements was onerous, Hunt said.
“Fifteen minutes for someone to respond to an incident? – I don’t know how you can enforce it, and I don’t know how realistic that really is,” he said.
The $500 annual licensing fee was also burdensome, Hunt said, since the city already taxed STRs at four percent because of its Lodging Tax.
Hunt also questioned whether freeing up STRs to try to take stress of the rental market would be effective.
“I don’t necessarily think that is the outcome that is going to occur,” he said.
The proposals’ second goal – to preserve the nature of neighborhoods being inundated with new STRs – is less tangible.
Rosenthal said he feared Hudson turning into a tourist trap, a simulacrum of a place that fills with visitors on weekends, then deflates into a ghost town during the week.
First Ward Alderman Kamal Johnson – the city’s Democratic nominee for mayor – said he has heard complaints from his constituents about STRs.
“Some people coming in, they’re here for the weekend, so they don’t care about any complaints or noise or trash — they basically see it as a hotel room – it’s kind of the culture to not take the best care of your hotel room,” he said.
However, Johnson had heard “pretty mixed” reactions to STRs from his constituents
“We have the people who feel like they’re running out of neighbors, and we have people who feel [listing their property] is necessary because of the high property taxes,” he said.
Johnson said he supported capping the number of STRs.
There is much to hash out in the proposals, Rosenthal said, including whether to count two listings within a single building owned by one person as one or two STRs.
Many buildings have multiple listings. Though more than 140 buildings include STRs, the number of individual STRs offered is much higher – 260 within the city, according to numbers from AirDNA, a STR analysis service.
How to define an STR would majorly affect who could list their property. For instance, Snyder’s six STRs are all within one building, so they could either be considered one STR or six. If it was considered to have six STRs, Snyder would have to stop listing all but one, since their owner doesn’t live in the building.
Mayor Rector said there was concern when entire buildings were rented out as STRs.
“It does take some fabric out of the neighborhood,” he said.
“I’m less willing to tell a property owner what they can and cannot do with their property,” he added. ”That’s a fine line that any city faces.”
One of the biggest questions Rector has about any proposals to regulate STRs is whether they are enforceable.
The city’s small Code Enforcement Office would be tasked with carrying out much of the new proposals, and how these proposals would actually play out was something to keep in mind, he said.
Correction: The article has been updated with a more accurate estimate of residential tax parcels with STRs. The number is about 145, not about 170.
Afterword: Exactly How Many STRs are in Hudson?
Two numbers are cited in this article about how many STRs are in Hudson.