ITHACA, N.Y.—The City of Ithaca is hosting a community conversation Thursday, Nov. 16, about draft regulations for short-term rentals.

Short-term rentals, which are most commonly associated with the company AirBnB, have been at the center of a long simmering debate in the City of Ithaca. Short-term rentals have been criticized as a contributing factor in Ithaca’s high housing costs by taking apartments and homes that would otherwise serve as long-term residences. 

It’s often more lucrative to host short-term rentals than lease an apartment to a tenant, but short-term rentals in the city have become an important source of income for some property owners aiming to afford Ithaca’s high cost of living.

There are a total of about 458 short-term rentals units in the city, and the median nightly rate for renting is $189, according to figures presented by the city’s planning department. As of July 2023, 86% of short-term rentals are entire homes, 44% of which are in multi-family homes, and 56% of which are single family homes.

The city’s community conversation is scheduled for Thursday at the Tompkins County Public Library’s Borg Warner Room. The event starts at 4 p.m. with an open house, and a presentation and discussion is scheduled for 5 p.m. The city has also distributed a survey on the policy proposal, with a Nov. 27 deadline for responses.

The goals outlined for the city’s short-term rental policy are to “preserve housing affordability” for long-term renters and homeowners in the city, while allowing residents “the ability to generate additional income” from their properties. 

The city’s regulations propose introducing a permitting system for property owners seeking to host short-term rentals. Property owners would be barred from listing an apartment or house as a short-term rental all year, except for the summer, if it is not their primary residence. The city defines a primary residence as a unit in which the host lives for at least 185 days a year under the draft policy. 

The city is considering three different types of permits. A primary residence permit, a seasonal permit, and an occasional permit. City planners have prepared a table to indicate the differences between each permit. 

City code officers will be issuing Certificates of Compliance for some permit types, and will be inspecting short term rentals for violations of existing city code. 

The city is proposing a six month grace period if the short-term rental regulations are adopted. After which, all short-term rentals without a permit are supposed to close shop.

Jimmy Jordan is Senior Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn