After talking with multiple people representing multiple sides of the short-term rental issue, it starts to become apparent that at least part of the problem is the phrase “short-term rental” itself.
While it can’t be said that no two STRs are alike, from a legal standpoint, “short-term-rental” is an inconveniently broad net that includes the elderly widow who is renting out a room of her home to quiet guests in order to pay the taxes, to what are basically small hotels run by LLCs filled with boisterous vacationers intent on partying. And everything in between.
Local STR ordinances try to differentiate between “good” STRs and “bad” STRs, discouraging them on one hand while not doing too much to damage their admitted economic benefits on the other.
STRs are also viewed differently in different communities. In Hamilton County, where residents are sparse and job opportunities even sparser — and where seasonal homes account for 80% or the housing stock — there seems to be a more philosophical (or fatalistic) attitude toward STRs than in Lake Placid, Keene or Wilmington, where “short-term rentals” are fighting words on one side or the other.
A few people I’ve talked with think that the Adirondacks is in something of an STR bubble that is due for a market correction, caused by an overabundance of supply, increasing regulations and the basic truth that being a landlord isn’t always a whole lot of fun.
In this scenario, houses that are now short-term rentals will come back on the market available to residents, albeit at a price not so many residents can afford.
But most view STRs as they would an invasive species that is too far out of hand to do much about, save for pulling up around the edges. As discussed in this week’s installment of Taking Stock,” there’s too much money to be made, and STRs have too much of a toehold, for the ship to return to port.
How did this happen? Lots of STRs were already here before Airbnb became a thing, so in that sense they are a pre-existing condition.
I heard one Keene resident grumble that the town always had long- and short-term housing and the only thing new was the drama, perpetuated by the introduction of an STR ordinance itself.But even so, there is no denying the acceleration in STRs throughout the Park.
Governments are always slow to react, and when STRs caught fire they became entrenched before elected officials could get out in front of the issue.
And perhaps the reason governments were slow to act is that STRs look so, well, normal. Perfectly camouflaged as typical neighborhood homes, a property could flip from permanent to seasonal housing without anyone but the closest neighbors knowing the difference. Maybe if there had been a law requiring all STRs be painted orange, the STR wouldn’t have snuck up the way it did.
This first appeared in Adirondack Explorer’s “Taking Stock of Housing” newsletter, a special, limited series looking into housing issues in the Adirondacks. Click here to sign up.