Got my ears blistered this week by someone who felt that our examination of the Airbnb phenomenon was unfair to those who have been using their properties and spaces to provide lodging for short term visitors.
I assured the caller that our intention is not to denigrate the practice or the practitioners. It is quite true that Woodstock has always suffered from a shortage of rooms for short stays, and it is quite likely true also that the very visible influx of great numbers of folks on the streets of town this summer was due to the availability of lodging such as is available on Airbnb and like services. And that those great numbers have been utilizing services, patronizing businesses, restaurants, going to shows, and adding to the vibrancy of the summer art and cultural scene.
Our goal in the article, and another this week that widens the scope past just Woodstock, is to examine the trend, to try to get an understanding of it, to see if there are other effects that resonate through the community, and to help community leaders who might have to deal with some of the effects.
For instance, the town board is wrestling with parking along Mead’s Mountain Road at the top, where traffic on the trail to the top of Overlook has increased significantly.
Jay Cohen is worried that the enrollment at Onteora, where the cost per student is $38,495, one of the highest in the country, will continue decline. He believes that we must attract and retain families with “affordable rentals, jobs, housing and businesses,” and lays the problem at the feet of the town board.
These problems are not new and are not because of Airbnb. Woodstock Commons, which we must all pretty much acknowledge at this point is a successful project, and Woodstock Meadows notwithstanding, affordable housing, it’s lack and how to create more, has been debated in town for decades. And Woodstock long has a reputation for being a second home community, where the population (and commerce) decreases significantly in the winter.
So no, we are not against the short term rentals. We applaud the entrepreneurs who have figured out a way to use underutilized spaces and add vibrancy to the economy.
But every cause has an effect, and every action, a reaction. It’s our job to shine a light on those, so that the community may be aware and be able to manage itself should things become unbalanced.