by Barrett Seaman –
With quibbles and concerns coming from every angle during the February and March public hearings, Irvington’s efforts to permit the use of homes for short-term rentals (think Airbnb) seemed destined for a long, drawn-out legislative grind and quite possibly failure. Yet somehow, the trustees and their village attorney managed to cut through cross-currents and become what appears to be a rare example of a Westchester municipality codifying such use of private family dwellings—referred to in shorthand as STRs. Homeowners who avail themselves of this new use, trustees hope, will be able to earn rental income to offset increasingly burdensome property taxes.
The requirements of the new law, however, will intentionally make it difficult to turn a one- or two-family home into a revolving door for out-of-town strangers—a fear expressed by some residents. Nor are its terms intended to be so onerous as to render permission meaningless.
But there are plenty of restrictions: only homes that fall within the definition of one- or two-family dwellings and comply with the village’s zoning and building codes qualify for a permit ($250 initially, $150 to renew) to rent. And not anyone can just come into town, build a house and start renting it out to strangers. The house must be the owner’s primary residence and have been so in its present size for at least five years. It can not be rented out for the purpose of parties or events. The owner or a surrogate must be reachable within 30 minutes to respond to a complaint and is responsible for all village rules regarding garbage, recycling and snow removal. And an owner who rents out for the limit of 180 days a year must be in residence for 90 days.
Earlier versions of the proposal limited the total rental days to 90 and the number of permits at any given time to no more than 30. One critique of that was that it meant only a small fraction of homeowners could benefit at any given time, and so it was expanded to 50. It remains to be seen, however, if even as many as 30 homeowners apply for permits in the same period.
The new code is unusual, if not unique, at least in Westchester County. Village Attorney Marianne Stecich checked around area municipalities to see which were trying to deal with the issue and found “pretty much not.” Peekskill had tried to codify STRs but ran into a buzz saw of public opposition—mostly from people who had been renting their homes via Airbnb and didn’t want the government sticking its neck into their business.