Ulster leads region by a wide margin in short-term rentals

Short term rentals are no longer a phenomenon in the Hudson Valley, as news stories noted only two or three years ago. As evidenced by a series of recent press releases from Airbnb, the biggie in the field, the numbers for short term rental incomes and visitations now represent a full-fledged industry on a par with other elements of the hospitality business throughout the region. 

How big is the short term rental phenomenon? 

Ulster County, according to Airbnb’s Northeast Press Secretary Liz DeBold Fusco, tops the field by far in the region, where there are now approximately 1800 hosts who share their homes via Airbnb, typically earning about $8,200 annually in supplemental income for a total number of 149,800 paying guests and a total reported income of $24.4 million. Greene County lags a far distance behind in the short term rental sweepstakes but still boasts a total of $7.2 million income and 48,100 guests over the year, just behind Dutchess County’s 48,800 guests and $7.9 million aggregate income. 

Other notable areas in the Hudson Valley and Capital District tourism regions, in order of guest numbers and overall income, were Saratoga County, Orange County and Columbia County. Overall, the Mid-Hudson Region’s seven counties accounted for $50.4 million in total “supplemental income,” as Airbnb likes to describe their monetary figures, while servicing approximately 300,700 guests. The Capital Region’s eight counties hosted over 187,000 guests in 2018, and earned $28 million in income.

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“2018 was another great year for Airbnb in the Mid Hudson region, with more local residents and small businesses able to benefit from the economic opportunities created by home sharing than ever before,” Airbnb’s Head of Northeast Public Policy Josh Meltzer was quoted in the West Coast-based company’s recent press releases…We look forward to continuing to help New York families earn extra income while allowing countless communities to enjoy the tourism economy in 2019.”

Stories accompanying the release in regional and national publications noted the fact that short term rental numbers have boomed in recent years, driven in part by the rise of online travel stories pushing the Catskills and Hudson Valley as rising tourism destinations. It’s also been noted that the current year’s hosting of various Woodstock Festival anniversary events will further aid the short term rental industry’s local growth.

“Throughout 2018, the home sharing community has provided significant value to Mid Hudson communities during big events, such as local music festivals, the summer tourism boom and fall foliage season,” Airbnb noted in its press release. “And in 2019, that is expected to only increase in the Mid Hudson region — Airbnb recently forecasted that the Hudson Valley and Catskills is one of the top trending destinations in the world for 2019.”

Local plans for governance

Meanwhile, Airbnb and other short term rental platform’s massive growth over the past three years (Airbnb was only founded in 2008) has meant new political and planning focus on the industry in towns and counties, as well as on an increasingly global basis.

Dutchess, Orange and Sullivan counties have reached tax agreements that allow Airbnb to collect and remit local taxes on behalf of its hosts. Ulster County completed a “data mining” expedition into short-term rentals by a third party company last summer and sent out notices to all Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway and other such hosts reminding them about the county occupancy taxes they owe, while simultaneously aiding towns come up with their own laws regarding the phenomenon.

Last month, the Woodstock Town Board forwarded to town planners a series of regulations governing short term rental safety and limits requiring anyone renting out rooms in their home to not only register and obtain a town permit. Eventually, the number of such units in the town will be capped, those in multi-family buildings closed down, and a new code enforcement officer hired to oversee them.

In Shandaken, a short-term rental committee is looking at how to regulate the phenomenon, pulling information from various sources, including local STR owners, and preparing to start discussing options following their next meeting on Monday, January 14, at 6:30 p.m. 

Hurley town supervisor John Perry said this week that he’s looking to allow short term rentals in his town in a single area along the Route 28 corridor between Zena Road and the Route 375 route into Woodstock. 

Throughout the greater region, most legal discussions regarding Airbnb and other short term rental arrangements are focused on the numbers of homeowners entering the business, safety inspections for the units being rented, tax figures, and the effects of the rising tourism numbers on the long term rental market.

On a national and international basis, city and county governments are looking at ways to ascertain who’s developing tourism-focused apartments and how that effects long term rentals. New York City is currently defending a new law it passed that requires property owners to turn over renter data as a means of gauging short term rental data. Last week, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer granted a request from Airbnb and HomeAway Inc. for a temporary injunction against the city ordinance, which was set to take effect February 2, ruling that the companies are likely to win on their claim that the law violates the constitutional ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

The city council had voted unanimously last summer to restrict people in renting their apartments to tourists, noting that the practice raises rents, increases gentrification and disrupts neighborhoods. The law would require Airbnb and similar sites to turn over to the city the names and addresses of renters and say whether rentals are for a whole apartment or just a room as a means to allow the city to better enforce its law making it illegal for most landlords to rent an apartment for fewer than 30 days.

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