Regulation & the Future of Home Sharing: An Open Letter to the City of New York

Today, our community in New York City is facing yet another attack by the big hotels in the form of a faulty and intentionally misleading report, bankrolled by the industry.

Every big hotel-funded report has followed the same playbook, and this one is no different:

  1. research riddled with the same grievous errors — from using scraped data to wholly blaming rent increases, which have been taking place for many decades, on Airbnb;
  2. conclusions that are purposely manipulated to paint a false picture of our host community, seeking to blame Airbnb hosts for an affordability crisis that they too face every day.
  3. an author who has been compensated by the hotel industry for his or her work — like David Wachsmuth, the Canadian researcher who wrote this report and is on the hotel industry’s payroll; and
  4. timed to follow a loss for the industry — in this case, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York’s decision that fundamentally recognized the importance of New Yorkers’ constitutional rights to privacy and the sanctity of their own homes.

But here’s the truth: Airbnb hosts are regular New Yorkers who are sharing their own home — which many of them began to do in order to afford their home. And earlier this month, The Court issued a preliminary injunction against the Homesharing Surveillance Ordinance based on serious concerns with New York City’s attempt to do an end run around established restraints on government powers, including due process. No amount of shoddy methodology can undermine that.

In addition, what the big hotel industry fails to mention is that, for the better part of three years, we have supported a fairly restrictive piece of legislation in the New York State legislature.

Introduced by Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol, this bill would bring the state Multiple Dwelling Law into the 21st century by ensuring home sharing can remain a tool of economic empowerment for families, small businesses and communities across New York, while unquestionably providing for strict enforcement against bad actors by limiting home sharing in New York City to only one entire home listing per host. This includes:

  • a registration system for hosts, with a fee that would support enforcement efforts against the real bad actors;
  • additional protections for rent controlled and public housing units;
  • additional insurance and safety measures;
  • a three strikes policy; and
  • a provision that would allow platforms like Airbnb to collect and remit all related sales and occupancy taxes, generating more than $100 million annually in additional tax revenue for the state (which we have more than demonstrated our eagerness to pay through our tax agreements with 28 counties statewide as well as our A Fair Share initiative launched last summer).

Late last year, we called for the hotel industry to come to the table with us, have a hard, honest discussion about the future of home sharing and find a path forward. As evidenced by the report that they released today, they have refused to do so, even with the financial future and security of thousands of New York families hanging in the balance.

So today, with the legislative session in New York State having just begun — and an opportunity to implement comprehensive regulations for home sharing this year — we make that same appeal to the City of New York.

There has been no daylight between Airbnb and the City on the need to go after large-scale commercial operators — we all strongly oppose warehousing apartments and turning them into illegal hotels. For our part, we have proactively worked to identify and remove more than 5,000 listings that do not reflect our vision for our community under our one host, one home policy, and stopped many more at the gate.

Now, rather than continuing to support hotel industry-backed measures that are ineffective — and could do more harm to the regular New Yorkers (who the City claims they want to protect) than good — we urge the City to work with us to pass the legislation proposed by Assemblyman Lentol in Albany, preserving the rights of local residents who are responsibly sharing their own home while focusing enforcement resources on the real bad actors.

It isn’t that outrageous of an appeal. In Seattle, Chicago, London and several other cities, we have worked closely with local governments to develop a collaborative partnership around home sharing — and with great success.

It’s time for New York City to do the same.

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