Airbnb Hosts Charge City and Hotel Industry Colluding Against Home Shares

Minister Foy leading a rally of Airbnb Hosts at New York City Hall
Minister Kirsten John Foy leading a rally of Airbnb Hosts at New York City Hall. Photo by Kelly Mena

To share or not to share is the problem.

Yesterday dozens of Airbnb hosts and home sharing advocates lined the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan to decry the actions of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) against Airbnb hosts.

The group called on OSE to cease relying on hotel-funded spy tactics that target middle-class New Yorkers who share their own homes, and instead focus its enforcement actions and fines on truly bad actors.

Airbnb hosts allege that the OSE is colluding with the hotel industry to conduct hidden camera sting operations on innocent individuals including using spies, entering homes without a warrant or permission among other tactics in order to shut down individual home shares that threaten the city’s hotel industry.

Airbnb hosts at the rally alleged the city is colluding with the hotel industry to conduct hidden camera sting operations on innocent individuals. Photo by Kelly Mena

“Home sharing platforms like Airbnb afford us the opportunity to do what nobody else is giving us the opportunity to do: fight back against this economic oppression. Now they [OSE] want to take back one of the few tools we have to survive and thrive,” said Minister Kirsten John Foy, Northeast Director for the National Action Network (NAN).

Airbnb hosts claim that they are just “middle-class” New Yorkers who are looking for extra income in order to afford to stay in their homes.

Sunset Park resident Skip Karol, 57, has been on the home sharing site since early 2014 after suffering a series of medical ailments that forced him to look for a form of supplemental income. Karol now is a frequent home share host averaging at least one guest per week and using the income generator to pay for basic utilities like his electric and gas bills.

“I share part of my home with visitors, but that doesn’t make me an illegal hotel.The City should do the right thing and go after the real bad actors here: commercial operators that impact the housing market, not someone like me who is just looking to pay my bills, and stay in the home I grew up in,” said Karol.

According to Airbnb, the typical host earns $5,600 per year in supplemental income; with 30% of hosts in New York City reporting that the income has helped them avoid foreclosure or eviction and 92% of NYC hosts reporting that they share their permanent home.

However, City officials have stated that their focus is on commercial operators who take long-term housing off the market not individuals, while the hotel industry claims they are just a scapegoat in the struggle in the City’s crackdown on short-term renters.

The mayor’s press office did not respond to inquiries about this issue at post time. The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council responded with a quote from Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal (D-Upper West Side, Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen), a strong opponent to short-term rentals.

Rosenthal has been challenging the home sharing business since introducing legislation last year to crack down on illegal hotels. 

“There’s nothing more Trumpian than pointing fingers at everyone else to distract from your own lawbreaking. It’s the height of arrogance to accuse the City of New York, which is spending resources to police Airbnb, a serial and brazen law-breaker, of overreach because the company refuses to comply with laws it claims it just can’t seem to understand. Here’s a lesson for you Airbnb: shut down your illegal hotel ring now or face the music. The choice is yours,” said Rosenthal.

Earlier this year, Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D – Williamsburg, Greenpoint) introduced A.07520, intended to ease short-term rental restrictions on multiple-dwelling units.The caveat with the measure is it further regulates rental hosts, in that they would have to register each unit they rent out for short terms with the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR).

Currently, there are 53,300 Airbnb hosts in New York state. According to an HR&A report released in May, Airbnb generated $3.5 billion in economic activity throughout the state and supported over 38,000 jobs in the past year.

“Our homes are sacred and the right to open our doors to whomever we choose is sacred and we are not going to abdicate that right, we are not going to shrink from that right and we are not going to let others [the city] exploit the economic pursuit of opportunity so that they can make a buck off our backs!” said Foy.

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