Airbnb opposes home-sharing bill in NYC

Airbnb said that its recent decision to remove more than 2,000 listings in New York City was out of concern over properties that “could otherwise have been on the long-term rental housing market.”

The move came as legislators in New York reviewed a bill that would make it illegal to advertise short-term rentals for entire homes on Airbnb.

It is already illegal to rent entire homes for shorter than 30 days, but New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is currently considering a law that could see those promoting short-term rentals (less than 30 days) for entire homes on the sharing platform at risk of a $7,500 fine.

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In response, the company has launched a series of advertisements calling for residents to oppose the bill, under the line: “There’s a chance to stop the anti-Airbnb bill that hurts middle class New Yorkers.” The group has increasingly mobilized its hosts to help it campaign against onerous legislation.

Airbnb said that in order to promote home sharing “in primary residences only, we have acted on a one host, one home policy” and has taken down 2,233 listings that appeared to be shared by hosts with multiple listings “that could impact long-term housing availability.”

The company added: “We are concerned about hosts who may offer space that could otherwise have been on the long-term rental housing market in New York City. We regularly review hosts with more than one entire home listing. Some of these listings would not otherwise be on the long-term rental market and are appropriate for our community, such as independent bed and breakfasts that advertise on our platform.

“If we find listings that do not reflect our vision for our community, we take action by removing them from our platform. We are committed to working with leaders in New York City on progressive policies that protect the middle class and help regular people share their permanent home.”

Airbnb said that, for the period between June 1, 2015 and June 1, 2016, 96 percent of hosts who shared an entire home had only one entire home listing. The company said that it opposed illegal hotels and continued to remove listings “that appear to be controlled by commercial operators and do not reflect Airbnb’s vision for our community.”

The group added that Airbnb listings represented “a fraction” of the housing stock in New York City, quoting census estimates indicating that there were 275,955 vacant housing units in New York, commenting: “Many of the 3,144 listings that we initially focused on are not vacant, but even if we assumed they are vacant, they would represent only 1.1 percent of all vacant units and 0.1 percent of all housing units in New York City.”

The platform has long had a volatile relationship with the authorities in the city. In February it was accused of having taken more than 1,000 listings down, with the office of the attorney general accusing the group of manipulating data “to conceal illegal activity.”

New York's opinion of Airbnb has been sour from the service's early days, and the city even blamed the home-sharing service for a drop in hotel taxes collected through March 2016. While Airbnb has been under fire from hotels and regulatory agencies since its inception, it has slowly acquiesced to local laws requiring regulations and tax collection in major cities, including a recent deal in Los Angeles. At the same time, the company is no longer remaining silent as its critics take shots at it, and even recently fired back against a report from the American Hotel & Lodging Association regarding Airbnb's service in Boston, claiming the study was "factually inaccurate."

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