Williams, Airbnb MIx It Up While Struggling Brooklynites & Small Businesses Await Outcome


Flatlands City Council Member Jumaane Williams yesterday accused Airbnb of noncompliance in releasing data of hosts that are illegally using the apartment sharing service that has brought an economic lift to many local Brooklyn small businesses and residents struggling with the city’s infamous high rents.

But Williams and other city lawmakers say they have no problem with residents making a little side money off renting out one of the spare rooms in their apartment to tourists as long as they pay taxes on it.

The real issue, they say, is with landlords and profiteers that violate the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL), which prohibits rentals of less than 30 days in any building occupied by three or more families living independently. As such, Williams has repeatedly asked Airbnb for data of hosts abusing the service and breaking the law, but the San Francisco-based company has only released big data.

City Councilman Jumaane Williams
City Councilman Jumaane Williams

“We met with Airbnb today, and they were still unable to disclose specific, actionable data. They also made no specific commitment to give actionable data to enforcement agencies. Airbnb only provided ‘anonymized’ data of its users who break the law — in other words, a useless disclosure that will do nothing to curb illegal hotels and tenant harassment,” said Williams.

“In addition, it’s unfortunate that Airbnb still refuses to accept any responsibility for compliance. There is an alternative: online platforms like Craigslist and Reddit have policies in which they promise to ensure their users obey the law and remove content that disobeys the law. Airbnb could easily do the same — for example, by not allowing users to rent out multiple units.

“We have asked Airbnb to do one of two things: show that they have a structure in place to require users to comply with our laws, and/or provide actionable data, such as addresses of illegally listed units, that enforcement agencies can use. To date, we are sad to say that they haven’t done either one of these things.”

Airbnb did release a treasure trove of raw data yesterday that included Brooklyn-specific information such as the borough currently having 13,822 active Airbnb listings with nearly half or 6,619 listing being for an entire home or dwelling, and 7,203 listings as shared rooms or shared space.

These listings were made by a total of 6,129 hosts – of which 5,814 had only one listing, 250 had two listings, 50 had three listings, eight had four listings, two had five listings and five had six or more listings.

Williams and other lawmakers want the names of the hosts, particularly the ones with multiple listings.

“It’s (the data given) anonymous and does not  allow the Office of Special Enforcement addresses or other specific data to crack down on illegal hotels. And, airbnb is still violating the law. This data is not helpful to the city,” said Williams’ spokesperson Nick Smith.

Airbnb countered that the data also showed that 78% of Airbnb hosts in New York earn low, moderate, or middle incomes. The company also noted that the City Council recently proposed legislation that would hike the minimum violation for breaking the rental law to nearly twice its current fine to $10,000.

“City Council’s solution would be to fine middle class New Yorkers $10,000 while they are just trying to make ends meet. We think a good policy solution is to try to help regular New Yorkers have an economic lifeline. We look forward to working with the City to put middle class New Yorkers first,” said an Airbnb Spokesperson.