Lake George counts with short-term rental headaches

The village of Lake George. Photo: Crown Focus Media

Peak summer tourist season is winding down in bustling Lake George right now. “Restaurants are busy every night of the week. Hotels and motels are full” all summer long, says Tony Hall, owner and editor of the Mirror of Lake George. “And of course we now have a lot of short-term rentals which really play a huge role not only in the accommodation market but also in residential areas.”

Short-term rentals — sites like Airbnb and VRBO — have raised big housing issues in other northern tourist communities, like Lake Placid and the Thousand Islands.

Tony Hall of Lake George Mirror on short-term rental issues in and around Lake George

Hall told David Sommerstein that towns around Lake George face these same issues. Their conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Tony Hall: The issues surrounding traffic noise, the size of septic tanks, and of course the effect that short-term rentals have on the housing market, on the stock of available housing for families and for first-time tenants who are entering the market, but need places to live so they can work in our resort communities.

DAVID SOMERSTEIN: Yeah, that’s a big point there. Obviously there are a lot of people working in all these tourism businesses and they need a place to live.

Tony Hall, publisher and co-owner of the Lake George Mirror

Tony Hall, publisher and co-owner of the Lake George Mirror

HALL: Yes, the stock of available or accessible housing has always been low in these resort communities. These are very expensive places to live, not necessarily even on the lake, but even inside the hamlets.

But short-term rentals have only exacerbated this problem. They not only repel people looking for year-round residences, where they can live, send their children to school, join civic councils, volunteer fire companies, but also young people looking to enter the housing market. And of course, most of us started our housing journey with rentals.

SOMERSTEIN: Who is really leading this conversation in Lake George and surrounding communities? Are these the workers, the people who would otherwise be buying a home or renting? Are the hotels competing with these short-term rentals? Who drives this?

HALL: Very interesting question. The accommodation industry started to worry about the growth of short-term rentals around 2016. But, of course, the market was driving this because people were looking for more flexible accommodation than rooms. of motels.

The pandemic has really exploded the problem. So even over the past year when local governments began to regulate short-term rentals, they realized they weren’t just looking for the occasional rental of a seasonal cottage, but rather they were dealing with investors who come to buy and build properties for strictly commercial purposes.

In Bolton Landing, and I say this slightly with some exaggeration, about half of the new construction is the construction of multi-million dollar single family homes on what were once resorts, and the other half are buildings strictly used on a short-term basis. term rentals.

So even in Bolton Landing, whose regulations only came into effect in January 2022, the city is already considering revising those regulations in an attempt to come to terms with the fact that much of the short-term rental market term is led by private investors.

And these are people who buy and build houses not only in resort areas, but in residential neighborhoods. This is how we can clearly see the conflict between year-round residents and visitors and vacationers manifesting itself. On your question of who’s in charge, local governments are really concerned about how short-term rentals affect the character of their communities.

SOMERSTEIN: How do they approach it? Are they considering moratoriums to kind of explore things? Do they actually set regulations?

HALL: Yes, the town of Bolton has its bylaws, as I said, but they are not associated with any particular area. They use a revocable license system. The City of Lake George will introduce a moratorium in August that will limit the number of short-term rentals that can go into both commercial and residential areas. So basically they’re going to rezone some of these areas as strictly residential. And the city of The Hague, which started drafting short-term rental regulations last year, still has a committee at work on these, and these could come into force in January 2023.

And I’ve spoken to some of the members of this community and this particular committee and what they’re concerned about is just the number of marketed homes that are being supported and that’s really affecting the character of the community.

But it is also the character and quality of the resort industry. In the Village of Lake George, for example, the resort industry accounts for the bulk of the $265 million tax base and is obviously the largest source of property taxes. So, local governments are interested not only in protecting residential neighborhoods, but really the economic engine of the Lake George region.

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