By Victoria Espinoza
Weary travelers to the Huntington area might have a harder time finding a place to lay their head.
Earlier in 2017 Huntington’s town board announced a plan to restrict and possibly ban Airbnb users in the community, and at the June town board meeting the new rules were unveiled.
At the January meeting residents gave overwhelming support for the use of Airbnb, an online marketplace that facilitates short-term leases and rentals for travelers, and said it not only benefits users, but also brings money back into the town. Overall users said they were happy to see a ban was no longer being considered, though they were still critical of certain restrictions.
“Unlike other types of lodgings such as national hotel chains, 97 percent of revenue generated through Airbnb goes directly to our hosts who plow it back into the Empire State economy,” Jeffrey Sellers, a community organizer at Airbnb said during the meeting. “The vast majority of these New York hosts, 56 percent of whom are women, are individuals and families who share their homes occasionally to pay for their mortgage, medicine, student loans, or save for retirement. The typical host in New York earns about $5,400 in supplemental income by sharing their home for fewer than three nights a month.”
The resolution with new rules for Airbnb hosts was drafted by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and includes limits on advertising, parking and total number of days for guests.
The proposed legislation provides that it’s unlawful for a short-term rental to be in use if the property is not owner-occupied; advertisements must only be filed after the owner has obtained the proper short-term rental permits; it’s unlawful to post signage on the property for advertising purposes; and no property owner can lease their short-term rental for more than 120 days out of the year.
“With the backdrop of public safety, quality of life, and property rights this legislation strikes a balance between someone who plays ‘host’ versus the rights of neighbors to these uses who have an expectation that they live in a residential area.”
Philip Giovanelli, a Cold Spring Harbor resident and Airbnb host said he finds the 120-day limit to be particularly restrictive.
“From a business point of view, it’s possible that if you’re successful that you limit your ability to have guests during the holidays,” Giovanelli said at the meeting. “I wouldn’t want to have to turn down any scientists, particularly a cancer researcher or a DNA researcher because I only have three days left on my calendar.”
Giovanelli suggested a document or form hosts could file if they wanted to extend their limit.
Tara Collier, a Huntington resident and Airbnb host said she also finds the limit to be a problem.
“Huntington is a beautiful place, so let’s share it,” she said at the meeting. “I find that a rental for only one third of the year is quite restrictive and I hope that you will remove it possibly. Maybe there could be a range of different fees you could pay? I would be willing to work with that, I think that would be fair.”
Cuthbertson responded to hosts’ concerns at the meeting.
“You have what is essentially a commercial use which is now going to be allowed in a residential area, and we’re trying to respect the rights of the neighbors who we’re going to say [to them] for 120 days of the year you can operate a commercial entity but we don’t want it to be a lot more than that,” he said. “Is it an arbitrary number? Yes, it is somewhat of an arbitrary number but it’s a number that we think is fair.”
The councilman said in an email finding a balance between hosts and their neighbors is the main objective.
“We have listened to the valuable feedback from the recent public hearing and considered all suggestions and concerns,” Cuthbertson said. “ With the backdrop of public safety, quality of life, and property rights this legislation strikes a balance between someone who plays ‘host’ versus the rights of neighbors to these uses who have an expectation that they live in a residential area.”