Local grassroots organization, For The Many [FTM], previously known as Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, hosted a press conference in the City of Newburgh on Thursday, July 21 to announce a new housing campaign known as ‘Homes Are Not Hotels’ which looks to ban vacation rentals completely throughout the Hudson Valley.
Vacation rentals are defined by FTM as entire residential buildings or accessory buildings that are rented out, unregulated and unsupervised which causes public safety concerns and diminishes the local community character. Vacation rentals also decrease the housing supply, increases rent and increases new homeowner costs.
FTM’s newly proposed policy looks to address short-term rental [STR] regulation and unregulated STRs that have taken most of the housing stock. The definition of housing stock, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “the total number of houses and apartments in an area.”
The proposed policy will have three main components: 1) the creation of a registration system that requires documented proof of primary residence, 2) a complete ban of vacation rentals which allows long-term housing opportunities for current residents and 3) calls for stronger enforcement of the legislation and accountability of both hosts and home sharing platforms.
The policy also calls on the institution of fines to be executed for violations and for home-sharing platforms to submit data on STRs to the municipalities that have these services present. FTM is not banning all STR’s but rather regulating them.
The proposed policy is looking to be implemented first into the City of Newburgh and make its way to the surrounding cities of Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Beacon, and the Town of New Paltz. Just last October, Newburgh City Council passed Good Cause Eviction which is law that provides protection for city tenants against unlawful eviction by their current landlords.
On the day of the conference, FTM Political Director Brahvan Ranga welcomed the gathered media outlets and organization supporters. In his opening remarks, Ranga discussed the growth of home sharing STR platforms, most notably Airbnb and VRBO, over the last several years. This rise was in part due to the on-going COVID pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, Ranga shared that outside of New York City, Orange County was seventh in terms of Airbnb revenue, Dutchess County was third and Ulster County was first.
According to the company website, Airbnb was created in 2007 by Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia, with their first rental being in their San Francisco home. In addition, it was reported as of March 31, 2022 that the company had six million active listings worldwide, 100,000 cities and towns have active listings and there are more than four million hosts. Over $150 billion has been earned by all-time hosts and typical United States hosts earned $13.8 thousand in 2021. The company history and information is available at news.airbnb.com/about-us/.
An additional article published by Airbnb in August 2021 had reported that during the first half of 2021, new Airbnb hosts in the Catskills and Hudson Valley region had earned $3.1 million. That report is available at news.airbnb.com/new-airbnb-hosts-earn-millions-in-first-six-months-of-2021/.
According to their company website, the home sharing company known as VRBO [Vacation Rentals By Owner] was created in 1995 and has over two million listings available for vacation goers to choose from. More company information can be found at vrbo.com/about/.
“The Hudson Valley is facing a housing crisis and fighting back against these absentee investors, against platforms like Airbnb is the single biggest thing that we can do to address this crisis on the local level,” Ranga said. “This fight is not going to be easy. We’re up against absentee investors, we’re up against these giant tech companies, profiting off of turning our neighborhoods into hotels.”
AirDNA, a vacation rental data and analytics company, provided information on active rentals within Newburgh both in the town and city based on the zip code. Active rentals are defined by the data as rentals that had one reservation or availability day within the last month.
In Newburgh, 105 or 84% of rentals were the entire home while 20 or 16% of rentals were just private rooms. Most of the properties listed in the date were within the East End Historic District and Washington Heights neighborhood. Properties are shared 76% on Airbnb, 6% on VRBO and 18% across both platforms. The highest rental demand was for single rooms.
The data shared via AirDNA was for 125 active rentals as of July 25, 2022. The data can be reviewed here: airdna.co/vacation-rental-data/app/us/new-york/newburgh/12550/overview
Later on in the conference, Ranga explained the difference between STR’s and vacation rentals for the gathered crowd. Ranga explained that STR’s are defined as non-owner or owner occupied units whereas a vacation rental is an entire unit or home that is rented out by an absentee owner or investor.
“The problem isn’t a working or middle class family or individual trying to rent out a spare bedroom to make some extra cash, we want to let them continue to do that,” Ranga stated. “The problem is absentee investors renting out entire units, entire buildings [to others] instead of to the people that live in our community.”
In attendance to support FTM’s campaign from the City of Newburgh were Mayor Torrance Harvey, Councilwoman Giselle Martinez, Councilman Omari Shakur, Councilman Anthony Grice and Orange County Legislator Genesis Ramos.
“This campaign is a direct response to our housing crisis. We cannot continue to let outside investors continue to come into our homes, into our neighborhoods and displace our neighbors,” stated Martinez. “It is our job to make sure that our residents have a safe home and will continue to live in their houses.”
“Good Cause [Eviction] is still in effect in the City of Newburgh and we [city council] will do more to protect our residents,” Grice stated.
“I recognize that Airbnb has a place and that there are folks who do use it to be able to alleviate their overall income and that’s fine,” Ramos stated. “Let’s be very clear about the fact that a renter or a homeowner will contribute so much more to a local economy than a tourist ever will coming here for the weekend.”
An online FTM petition is currently available for those interested in reviewing and/or signing at forthemany.org/homesarenothotels/.
Airbnb properties listed in the city are mainly located in the East End Historic District and within the Washington Heights neighborhood. Within the past several years, the Liberty St. and Broadway corridors and Newburgh Waterfront have seen an increase in new businesses being opened and patrons from Newburgh, the Hudson Valley and other parts of the state are enjoying what the city has to offer. Several Airbnb owners were contacted for additional comments/reactions to the recent announcement from FTM. Several owners declined to comment on the situation.
In response to the recent announcement from FTM, the following statement was provided by the newly formed Newburgh Airbnb Homeowners Association (NAHA): “The Newburgh Airbnb Homeowners Association (NAHA) represents individuals who own properties in the City of Newburgh and the surrounding areas who use their properties for personal use (as a primary or secondary residence) and offset their costs of renovations and operations with short-term rental. NAHA members are dedicated to the architectural preservation of the City of Newburgh, are deeply invested in this preservation effort, and utilize the short-term rental model to not only offset their costs, but preserve the historic integrity of their properties (as short-term rentals necessitate maintenance at a high level of quality). NAHA does not represent investment groups, LLCs, or other corporate entities, and does not condone corporate investment in properties in Newburgh for the sole purpose of advancing short-term rentals. We are committed to the socioeconomic, racial, and cultural diversity of the city of Newburgh, and believe that the city of Newburgh should have an informed, thoughtful and strategic approach to affordable housing.”