Julia Nagel/Sun Senior Photographer

On May 1, The Ithaca Common Council will vote on a short-term rental ordinance which would regulate the use of residential units as rentals for fewer than 30 days.

April 28, 2024

Ithaca Common Council to Vote Wednesday on Short-Term Rental Legislation

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On May 1, the Common Council will vote on a short-term rental ordinance, which would regulate the use of residential units as rentals for fewer than 30 days in the City of Ithaca. 

The ordinance, which was drafted by the Department of Planning and Development, states three key objectives of the legislation — sustaining housing affordability, enabling residents to earn extra income from their primary residences and managing the possible benefits and harms of short-term rentals, also referred to as STRs.

To incorporate these objectives, the ordinance would issue permits only to a primary resident of a property, while allowing STRs in any single- and two-family residences and owner-occupied residences within a multiple-dwelling or mixed-use building.

This ordinance follows an initial proposal from September 2022, which included three different permit types — primary residence permit, seasonal permit and occasional permit. Primary residence permits refer to those about 185 days or more, seasonal permits refer to rentals up to 90 days and occasional permits refer to rentals less than 14 days per year.

The initial policy also allowed both primary residents and non-residents to be hosts of STRs.

The current proposal demonstrates a change from the Department of Planning and Development’s initial policy as it would not issue permits to non-residents and prohibit non-primary residences from being used as STRs. This amendment is based on the determination that “limiting short-term rentals by season or by a specific number of days per year would be difficult to enforce and … does not meet the city’s two primary short-term rental objectives.” 

The proposed legislation was met with mixed community response at the public hearing at the April 10 Common Council Committee of the Whole Special Topics Work Session, with some Airbnb hosts concerned about its impact on their future business. 

Anita Graf, a super host on Airbnb and owner of a variety of long-term rentals, believes that legislators should not interfere with the natural demand in the market for STRs and critiqued the timing of the legislation, citing recent increases in the city’s tax levy and property values after reassessment.  

“This is the absolute worst time to make a draconian decision to curtail the options of lodging providers,” Graff said. 

However, for tenants like Sarah Curless ’14, the STR ordinance is crucial in protecting the housing stock in the city and giving permanent residents a chance at having an affordable place to live. 

“We do need more housing here, but we also need to free up available housing for people who actually live here long term to fight the housing crisis that exists here,” Curless said.  

The Ithaca Common Council will vote on the legislation at its Wednesday, May 1 meeting. If it is passed, permit applications will open in January 2025, with full implementation of the policy slated to begin in June 2025.

Taehee Oh ’27 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].