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Huntington proposes ban on short-term apartment rentals

Shawn Welnak in his Huntington Home on Dec.

Shawn Welnak in his Huntington Home on Dec. 28, 2016. Shawn supplements his income by renting a room and his home through Airbnb. He is concerned that a new Huntington town proposal would ban such short term rentals. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Huntington Town officials are considering a ban on renting out accessory apartments for less than 30 days in an effort to avoid the proliferation of Airbnb-like operations.

“It’s a legitimate quality-of-life concern that’s been raised due to the changing nature of rentals,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson said Wednesday. “Like Uber or Lyft [car and ride-hailing services] when it comes to taxis, it’s a cutting-edge thing that we’re trying to address in our zoning code.”

Residential property converted to commercial use, Cuthbertson said, could result in an influx of people and a shortage of parking spaces.

Cuthbertson and Councilwoman Tracey Edwards sponsored the resolution, which would establish a 30-day minimum stay for rentals. The public can comment during a public hearing on the issue at 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at Huntington Town Hall, 100 Main St.

“We’ve gotten a number of complaints” from people with neighbors who are renting space on a short-term basis, Cuthbertson said, adding that his office first started hearing from constituents about the issue about a year ago.

Short-term rentals have multiplied across Long Island in recent years, leading to bans in some communities, including Islip Town and Great Neck Estates.

While several websites offer short-term room, apartment and home rentals or swaps, Airbnb alone doubled its bookingsnationally for the 12-month period that ended in April compared with the previous year, the company said in May.

Huntington resident Shawn Welnak, 44, said Airbnb has provided him with critical supplemental income. He said he’s made $6,000 to $9,000 a year since he started renting out a room in his house through the website three years ago.

Welnak says he will be forced to move if the proposal passes.

“The people this will hurt most is the 90 to 95 percent of people trying to supplement their income using Airbnb,” he said. “People who are well-off are not going to be excited about making an extra $60 per night for renting out a room.”

Welnak was sympathetic to people with neighbors who are irresponsible renters, and said Huntington should consider targeting the legislation more narrowly at problem property owners who rent to inconsiderate short-term visitors.

“There could be a requirement that for someone to do Airbnb they would have to reside there [in the property]for some percentage of the year,” Welnak said. “That would eliminate these huge homes that rent out all these different rooms, where you have six to 12 people coming and going all day long.”

Cuthbertson said he is open to hearing from opponents of the resolution.

“Tell us about your experience and why it’s important to you, and we’ll try to wrestle with it,” he said.

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