With housing crisis, time is of the essence

“We’re looking for action.”

That’s what Jessica Shumway, who works at Adirondack Medical Center, said after a meeting between the Saranac Lake Village Board and the village’s Housing Task Force last week.

“You’ve been working at this for two years. We are in a position where we no longer have the time,” she told the village board and Housing Task Force.

We agree. When it comes to addressing the local affordable housing crisis, time is of the essence.

The housing crunch in this region is by no means a new problem. Long before anyone was calling it a “crisis,” the lack of affordable housing was having an impact on the residents and businesses of this area. But as time passes, the problem only seems to worsen, and its impacts continue to broaden.

Short-term vacation rentals aren’t solely to blame for the affordable housing crisis in this area. And the fact that some locals need STRs to be able to afford their homes, or to be able to afford to make them habitable, is a side effect of the crisis, not the cause of it.

There’s a complex web of factors that have gotten us here, and it’s likely going to take a complex web of programs, regulations and funding to address all of the problems. But the village needs to start somewhere. We’ve said it before: If elected officials decide that imposing a permit system and/or STR regulations will help mitigate the impact of STR industry growth on the local housing stock, the time to do that is sooner rather than later. The village doesn’t need to start from zero — there are other municipalities that have gone through this before.

The village board is pledging to have a draft of short-term rental regulations for the public to review after the holiday season. After the housing task force finishes its work on the regulations draft, its members said the group can finally turn its attention to new housing solutions.

There’s a lot of Saranac Lake residents — and would-be residents — that want to be able to see some progress, or at least see some concrete proposals to get the ball rolling.

We hope the village keeps to its timeline — and we hope that “after the holiday season” is closer to January, as Mayor Jimmy Williams hopes, rather than many months from now.


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