Jobs + income = housing and affordability

Concern about housing and affordability in Lake Placid should focus, in part, on bringing better-paying jobs into the area. Homeowners who rent out their homes on a short-term basis are also part of Lake Placid and are concerned as well about housing affordability. We’d like to have a productive conversation about how to help address this issue. Let’s look at the true cause of this problem, rather than arbitrarily blaming short-term rentals.

The problem of a shortage of affordable housing in Lake Placid predates Airbnb, VRBO and other owner-based rental sites. As far back as at least 2008, The North Country Regional Report described the need for basic affordable housing as an issue in the six counties that comprise the North Country Region: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence (the region). The causes of the affordable housing shortage were unrelated to short-term rentals and included pre-World War II homes having maintenance and energy-efficiency issues, both of which are costly to remedy. Certainly, all the problems identified predate the upward trend in home rentals.

In hopes of furthering a remedy to the shortage of affordable housing, we suggest Lake Placid and North Elba invest in creating a “white paper” — i.e., an in-depth, coordinated look into this subject to objectively examine the salient aspects of the issue — and then make key decisions based on the resulting analysis. Our area could greatly benefit from an analysis of STRs and their economic impact, with the pros and cons determined professionally by a non-biased consulting firm. It would answer questions such as:

¯ How many jobs do STRs create?

¯ What are the tax implications?

¯ What exactly do STRs do to the pricing of homes?

¯ What is the economic impact of STRs on local businesses?

¯ How many extra guests do STRs bring into Lake Placid that may otherwise go elsewhere?

Lake Placid and North Elba have made significant dollars from STRs and can continue and expand on that. Imagine if that money was spent on helping and giving back to the local community. By working together we can provide a solution that benefits the entire community. For example, one potential solution could be for the region to pool the money received from STRs into one fund that would invest in helping lower income folks in the region by offering loans with good rates to help them buy a home, renovate, etc.

One thing is clear: STRs are not going away. Tourism has been an economic driving force in Lake Placid, bringing outside dollars into the area for many years. As tourism evolves and changes, so must we, if we are to remain competitive in attracting the tourist dollars we have relied on. Clearly, tourists are more and more choosing to stay in home rentals. This evolution is already a part of many towns’ DNA now and will continue into the future. Shutting down this opportunity for tourists simply means they will vacation elsewhere. Ultimately, this hurts the entire community of Lake Placid. Determining how to best address the changing needs and desires of tourists will be the key to many towns’ economic futures, including ours in Lake Placid.

Sharon Middendorf lives in New York City and Lake Placid, and is a member of Gold Medal Hospitality, a group representing owners of short-term rental units in the Lake Placid area.

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