This is a letter to the editor written by Jason Evans, an Ithaca resident. It was not written by the Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, please send them to Matt Butler at email@example.com.
Town of Ithaca Board Members,
The stories fellow Ithacans shared on short-term rentals brought me forward to speak. Ithaca has been nationally recognized as one of the most expensive places to raise a family. It was not surprising then when diverse members of our community spoke to how short-term rentals brought them financial stability. It moved me to hear how they enabled travelers to have the “Ithaca is Gorges” experience, not in a cold hotel room but a unique and inviting home. Some spoke to how short-term rentals are the only thing enabling them to stay in the community. There were sincere and insightful comments tonight that addressed issues with the legislation, and how it would detrimentally impact our town.
With this heartfelt commentary, you can imagine I was shocked two hours and thirty minutes into the meeting that some of you appeared to lament that you may have to take public comment again on December 29th. I was even more alienated when ideas were floated about cutting the comment period or moving the time just because you’d get “much of the same” commentary as tonight’s meeting.
You likely will, and for good reason.
All of the homeowners expressed not only a vested but also personal interest. And when I say all the homeowners, I include those who were pro-rental limits too. Most everyone who attended may likely agree that basic legislation on short term rentals is needed, or at least better enforcement of noise and parking regulations already on the books.
But the 29-day rental limit per year is arbitrary. Snowbirds spoke to how short-term rentals let them travel south for the season. Parents discussed how it enables them to take care of their children and have a stay-at-home parent. Others spoke to how it simply brought them additional income. A 29-day cap cripples any financial independence short-term rentals can bring.
Many of the provisions are, do I dare say, Orwellian? Such is the provision requiring that an owner notifies code enforcement every time they have an un-hosted rental.
As one person said, the proposed legislation takes “a blunderbuss approach” and the onerous requirements coupled with the 29-day limit disincentivize short-term rentals without expressly saying so.
Shortly after public comment ended, I had the sense that most of you had already made up your minds before the meeting began. Which is unfortunate. According to the Economic Policy Institutes Family Budget Calculator, taxes in Ithaca are the second highest cost for families, only behind childcare. The high taxes push people out of our community and are likely fundamental to why many people consider creating accessory apartments or short-term rentals in the first place.
We should work towards making Ithaca more affordable and accessible. Short-term rentals are a large part of that. We should address complaints about noise and potentially absent landlords. I don’t believe anyone wants developers coming in and buying up tracts of property to turn into short-term rentals. But we should also empower people to thrive and profit from their home. The allotted number of days you can rent is far too short. Shorten and simplify the legislations reporting requirements. Many comments, and there were many, were made tonight that were far more informed than mine, and so I urge you: Consider change.