Deja Vu: 2.5 Years Later, Saranac Lake Housing Working Group Still In Phase 1

On Wednesday, April 28, from 5–6:30 p.m. in the Harrietstown town hall auditorium, the public is invited to participate in a public input session on short term rentals, hosted by the village of Saranac Lake and the village’s Housing Working Group.

The Housing Working Group was founded in 2018 to study and address Saranac Lake housing challenges. The group consists of Harrietstown Housing Authority Executive Director Sarah Clarkin, Adirondack Foundation Advisory Board member Susan Waters, Chamber of Commerce Director Patrick Murphy, Franklin County Industrial Development Agency CEO Jeremy Evans, Village Trustee Melinda Little and Community Development Director Jamie Konkoski.

What has happened since 2018?

In a December 2018 interview with the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Konkoski said, “What we think our first step will be is to carry out a housing study that gets to a greater level of detail. So that’s what we are exploring right now: what that study would be, what the scope of work would be, and what the potential cost might be.” 

Konkoski went on to say they would look for a firm “to come in and collect data on the housing market—what’s selling, what’s not, what’s available? Then they would explore the demographics of those looking for housing: what their income level is and what kind of challenges they face.”

In a February 2021 email, Little said the group decided not to do a study because, “None of the consultants we talked to, though, could give us what we needed.” 

As of February 2021, the group had met with 18 different people and entities to inform their decision-making process. This Wednesday’s meeting will be the first in which it is soliciting public input regarding Saranac Lake’s housing challenges.

Why it matters

Currently, Saranac Lake is seeing a sharp rise in short term rentals and the “Airbnb effect” on local housing within the village, which places pressure on long term rentals for people who live and work in the area. 

Studies have indicated that an increase in supply of short term rental units is directly associated with a decrease in long term rental units. According to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, as of April 2021, “the village has identified around 125 short-term rental units on 82 individual properties. Last year it counted 65 to 68 individual properties on rental websites.” 

While the village has not conducted a formal survey and will be hearing from the public this Wednesday for the first time since 2018, local residents are saying they have been directly and personally impacted by the rise in short term rentals. 

Addie M. Openshaw, who has a family of six, made a public post in a “Tri Lakes Housing” Facebook group indicating she is urgently seeking housing. Openshaw is being asked to leave her long term rental because the owner is converting it to an Airbnb rental. 

Openshaw has been looking for housing since the owner notified her in September 2020 and has been unsuccessful in finding a rental that can fit her family. Oppenshaw said an unsuccessful search for housing would force her family to move out of the Saranac Lake area. 

When asked what moving out of the area would mean for her family, she wrote, “This is where my parents and grandparents and their grandparents were born. There is so much work to choose from, sports and activities. Lots of water to play in and lands to learn from. I have 4 kids that are almost done with high school and want THEM to have roots here for the same reasons.”

In case you didn’t know

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