By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – The Hudson Valley short term rental housing market is exploding; however, the benefits of the unprecedented growth are not trickling down to many.
Orange County ranked third, behind Dutchess, and forerunner Ulster as possessing the largest number of airbnb’s in the entire state (outside NYC). Since the Pandemic reared its head, hundreds have been escaping the crowded confines of New York City, seeking the numerous gifts of the Hudson Valley region, including; open space, mountainous backdrops, and quaint communities, while embracing a lower cost of living. Owners of hot commodity short term rentals are well versed on this lucrative, opportunistic scenario. And while many are following inherent, legally-sound guidelines, numerous others are not. The result is an oftentimes, greedily-driven, unregulated and exploitative cocktail, laden with further harmful rippling effects.
“Outside, absentee investors, who don’t live in or even nearby to the properties they are renting out, are coming here to places like Newburgh just to make a profit and not contribute to the economy,” explained Brahvan Ranga, Political Director for the grassroots group, For the Many, who held a public kickoff event Thursday afternoon to elaborate upon their dedicated and unwavering mission to put specific legislation, which includes severe penalties, in place to thwart these unacceptable business tactics affecting not only Newburgh, but many of its surrounding neighbors.
Surrounded by a large contingent of For the Many members as well as political dignitaries, who could be seen elevating signs reading: “Homes are not Hotels” and “Community over Profit,” Ranga further delineated how these upcoming, proposed legal safeguards would not apply to all short term rental owners, simply those renting out entire properties and residing completely off-site.
“This fight will not be an easy one, but take a look at who is behind me,” reminded Ranga, who further explained the hard work and battle that lie ahead on a critical journey likely to meet harsh resistance and take at least six months . At the core lies protecting the basic rights of residents who live in these cities, Newburgh, Kingston and Poughkeepsie, where the legislation will initially be proposed.
“This campaign is in direct response to our housing crisis, where 70 percent of our residents here in Newburgh do not own their own home due to being priced out by these outside owners,” said Giselle Martinez, City Councilmember, Ward 1. “We cannot continue to allow outside investors to come in and drive out residents; we are going to continue to fight for their security.
Anthony Grice, Newburgh City Councilmember, At-Large, emphatically addressed the crowd at the Broadway Street local office with a similar message to that of Martinez.
“Maslow (Abraham) once said food, shelter and safety – which come with housing – are a part of our basic needs before we can be actualized, and Good Cause is still very much in effect in Newburgh,” Grice reminded those in attendance. “We have people coming here who are not becoming a part of the community and contributing to the fabric of our City in any way.”
Political guests were not limited to Newburgh Districts; rather they came as far away as Ulster County, which has already witnessed the dire, domino effects that not regulating the short term rental industry can have.
“Airbandb’s have a place in our communities; however, they are having a serious impact on the housing market,” said Jen Metzger, former State Senator and candidate for Ulster County Executive. “Short-term rentals need to be tackled at both local and state levels.”
It’s that comprehensive approach, involving multiple facets, yet another speaker, Genesis Ramos, Orange County Legislator, District 6, emphasized, as she thanked For the Many for their already arduous efforts directed at an issue whose breadth extends beyond New York State and remedies will require the support and hands-on help of multiple villages.
“This is a nationwide problem; the heart of what I see here is about the power of the people and not accepting being taken advantage of,” said Ramos. “All of us in this room have power, and it’s going to take all of that to help us pass this legislation.” She added, “The number one concern people expressed when I was campaigning for office was affordable housing and it remains; a homeowner will contribute so much more to a community than a tourist ever will.”