Rental shift adds to Lake Placid commutes

Work, and getting there, affects everyone in some way, so we encourage you to pick up this week’s Lake Placid News. We think you’ll be interested in the lead story on page A1, about Lake Placid workers who commute long distances — many from Malone, which is more than an hour away by car and longer on the bus, with its many stops.

Reporter Griffin Kelly interviewed kitchen workers at a Lake Placid pub who commute from Malone: sometimes by car, sometimes by bus. More than a quarter of the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery’s kitchen staff lives in Malone, and about 15 percent of its total workforce. These workers’ bosses at the pub say the percentage of long-distance commuters has shot up in the last few years, and they said it’s no coincidence that the same time period has seen an explosion of Lake Placid housing being converted from long-term habitation into Airbnb and other short-term vacation rentals. Workers Griffin talked to said they would love to live closer to Lake Placid if they could afford to.

It’s not just the Pub & Brewery. Hotels see the same problem, and Lake Placid’s Elderwood of Uihlein nursing home draws from as far away as the Albany Capital Region for certified nursing assistants. It’s establishing housing here for them.

Workforce housing has been an issue in Lake Placid for a long time. Village and town leaders have long relied on Saranac Lake and Wilmington as bedroom communities. That’s still viable, but the Airbnb boom has changed the dynamic significantly. There are now 350 Airbnb sites just within the Lake Placid village limits, plus plenty of other vacation rental units. That’s great for those property owners’ pocketbooks, but it has taken a huge proportion of the community’s housing stock out of circulation for people who want to live and work here. And the number of restaurants, hotels, shops and other businesses in Lake Placid keeps growing.

Village and town elected officials say they are working on rules to address the proliferation of short-term rentals and to make sure this rental housing is safe. They must do so, promptly and decidedly.