It’s been on the New Paltz Village Board agenda for several months, but until the idea of regulating short-term rentals — such as those arranged through the popular Airbnb website — didn’t elicit any public reaction until it was also brought before the town council, suggesting that the bulk of these rental arrangements are outside of the village. Former supervisor Toni Hokanson had questions about why it had even become an issue: “Are there complaints?” she asked. “How do they compare to long-term and student rentals?” Noting that the income she earns that way pays her property taxes, thereby making her own housing affordable, she said that if the intent was to make more housing affordable, there are other options in the town’s unadopted 2011 master plan. A state comptroller report on the phenomenon did highlight how affordable housing was supplanted by more lucrative short-term rentals, but according to Town Supervisor Neil Bettez, that’s an issue in New York City but not New Paltz specifically.
Kim Kimball, a resident of Plains Road, told the elected officials that most people were unaware she even had short-term renters in her home. In fact, according to Town Board member Jeff Logan, there are several operating on his Plains Road block without causing disruption. Kimball, who is using the money to save up for her child’s college education, said she was “very scared of the slippery slope” of regulation which could be coming. These rentals are “the only way some people can afford to live here.”
Mayor Tim Rogers noted that he himself has an accessory apartment in his home, and that per village law it gets inspected annually for safety reasons. “It’s a great way to make money,” he said of that and short-term rentals. “The cost of the inspection should be cost only,” he said, not a money-making scheme for the local government, but safety is a concern.
Trustee Don Kerr, however, noted that these web sites are self-policed in the form of ratings, which encourage hosts to provide a good experience.
“They’re not rated on whether they have a carbon monoxide detector,” observed Bettez. “What should the town do?”
Rogers felt that making a distinction between owner-occupied rentals and those which are fully rented would be a “set up for failure” of enforcement, as that can be difficult to determine.
“Difficult, but worthwhile,” observed village trustee Tom Rocco.
Logan noted that town building inspector Stacy Delarede had been working on a rental law for the town for the past four years, and could conceivably add in language to address this concern. He did not speculate on when that law might be ready for review.