Hotel industry's legislative taskmasters should stop targeting everyday New Yorkers By Josh Meltzer

Earlier this summer, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced a bill that would force Airbnb hosts to disclose their full home address online for the world to see – and would result in a disturbing violation of personal safety and privacy rights, while doing nothing to protect public safety. While Assemblywoman Rosenthal is quick to demand hard working New York hosts disclose their personal address to the public, she ignores one key fact: Airbnb supports address registration in New York City.

Rosenthal has stated publicly she is “not looking to go after Joe Tenant who does this once in awhile.” Yet, her legislative agenda does exactly that – and her willingness to say one thing while doing another suggests she is either suffering from acute short-term memory loss or willfully spreading misinformation. Either way, it is not sound policymaking.

Unlike the bill introduced by Assemblywoman Rosenthal, legislation introduced by Assemblyman Joe Lentol draws an important distinction between tenants and homeowners who share their own homes to earn some extra money and commercial operators who threaten to run de facto, 24/7 hotels and remove long-term housing from the market. The Lentol bill would permit responsible hosting while giving regulators the tools they need – including addresses – to protect affordable housing and public safety, including a 24/7 hotline for neighbor concerns, and mandatory insurance minimums.

Most importantly, this bill would require host registration with an appropriate state agency to enable data sharing for all home-sharing platforms – not posting this information for all to see, and posing a serious security risk. This is policy directly modeled after cities like Chicago, San Francisco and Denver, where Airbnb has worked with lawmakers to craft similar agreements.

The Lentol bill is a comprehensive solution to home sharing, providing regulators the information needed to curtail illegal hotels while allowing New Yorkers to share their own home to earn supplemental income in an increasingly expensive city. And it is a needed solution, as the status quo is harmful to responsible New Yorkers. It treats a retired couple that rents their apartment while they’re visiting grandchildren, or a teacher going on vacation for two weeks in the summer no differently than an unlicensed hostel or a landlord who threatens to push rent-stabilized tenants out of their homes.

Assemblywoman Rosenthal and her hotel industry backers deliberately rely on a falsehood that all Airbnb hosts operate full-time illegal hotels that remove permanent housing from the market to justify their irrational attitude on this topic. They know that this is a lie, but the truth doesn’t serve their agenda.

The truth is the vast majority of Airbnb hosts share their own home occasionally, typically earning $5,100 per year. Moreover, most independent, academic studies have found that home sharing has little to no impact on the housing market and even those that have identified a minor impact on rents acknowledge that families who rent their own homes do not lead to an increase in rents. In fact, the supplemental income these families earn actually reduces the number of New Yorkers who are rent-burdened and/or at risk of eviction/foreclosure. These everyday New Yorkers – teachers, nurses, artists – do not deserve to be targeted by the hotel industry and their legislative taskmasters.

The status quo invites an obvious question: why can’t we allow responsible New Yorkers to share their own home to earn some needed extra money?

Assemblywoman Rosenthal and her hotel industry friends are not interested in a finding a rational solution. Rather, they want to make the status quo worse for New Yorkers by pushing a bill that would require home sharers to publish, for public consumption, their personal addresses. This would alert wrongdoers to when a family will be out of town, embolden those who seek to commit identity theft, and undermine privacy for New York families without doing anything to protect public safety. There is a better way.

We hope the state Legislature looks past the flawed bill pushed by Assemblywoman Rosenthal and her hotel industry friends. We are all tired of the ridiculous threats and tactics that seek to irrationally harm and demonize tens of thousands of New Yorkers who simply want to use their most expensive asset to make a little extra money. There is a rational solution on the table that approaches home sharing in a comprehensive way. Let’s get all sides together and have an adult conversation about what’s truly best for New Yorkers.

Josh Meltzer is the New York public policy director for Airbnb.
View original article on City & State New York here.

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