The Real Deal New York

Airbnb’s multi-unit hosts and “commercial listings” account for growing share of NYC business

That’s despite the short-term rental titan removing over 2,200 controversial listings since December

July 11, 2016 09:31AM
By Ariel Stulberg

Map of Airbnb listings in New York City

Map of Airbnb listings in New York City

UPDATED, 12:45 a.m., July 12: Airbnb is out with new data on its New York City users. While the company is taking steps to tamp down on controversial uses of its service in the face of fierce pressure from Albany lawmakers, the numbers show “hosts” listing multiple units still make up a significant — and growing — proportion of users.

The percentage of units booked through the site for more than 180 days over the space of a year — considered “commercial listings” — is growing as well, according to the data.

The short-term rental Goliath released a report last week showing there were 878 so-called “multi-hosts” active on the site in New York City as of June 1, 2016, about 4.5 percent of all listers. That’s up from 3.5 percent as of Nov. 17, 2015, according to numbers released by the firm earlier this year.

The increase comes despite the company’s removal of over 2,200 of multi-hosts’ listings since November that it said “could impact long term housing,” according to the report. The company removed 1,500 such listings late last year, just before its first-ever NYC data release in December. It has removed 723 offending listings since then.

Activists and officials have criticized the firm for facilitating the creation of de-facto hotels in the city’s residential buildings, with “multi-hosting” being perhaps the most frequently cited complaint.

A spokesperson for Airbnb, which is reportedly seeking funding for a valuation of $30 billion, confirmed that all or nearly all the over-3,000 units listed by those hosts as of June 1 — about 7 percent of listings, representing about 20 percent of revenue earned — have been vetted and found to comply with the company’s standards.

“We regularly review hosts with more than one entire home listing,” the report released last week said. “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.”

The percentage of NYC listings that were booked for more than 180 days — roughly the standard for “commercial” operation established in 2014 by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — has climbed as well, to about 9 percent between June 2015 and June 2016, according to data provided by Airbnb’s spokesperson.

That’s up from about 6.7 percent in the period between November 2014 and November 2015, based on data previously released by Airbnb and The Real Deal’s analysis of scraped listing data posted to Inside Airbnb.

Airbnb’s report focused on active listings, those booked at least once during the June-to-June period, rather than total listings. By that metric, the percentages of “commercial” units would be higher still. The number of inactive listings, required to calculate those rates, wasn’t immediately available, according to the spokesperson.

Overall, the company’s business in the city is growing rapidly. As of June 1, there are a total of 41,373 active Airbnb listings in New York, according to the company’s data, a 15 percent increase from Nov. 17, 2015. Of those, 22,253 are for whole units.

Bradley Tusk, a former aide to Mayor Michael Bloomberg who advises startups, told reporters last week that the company’s sky-high valuation may not hold up if its illegal listings in New York and San Francisco are purged.

“They are raising now at a higher valuation, but if you were to say ‘here is what the New York and San Francisco markets are really worth in full legal compliance’ and then re-run the numbers — however they do it — I don’t know that they are still that $30 billion company,” Tusk said, according to CNBC.

Lawmakers critical of the service scored a victory last month when both houses of the New York State legislature passed a bill that would create fines up to $7,000 for users who merely list whole unit apartments for under 30 days. Such rentals are already illegal under state law, but remain very common.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not indicated whether he plans to sign the bill into law.

Correction: Due to an error from an Airbnb spokesperson, a previous version of this story gave an incorrect number for how many listings the company removed. 

Correction: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect estimate for the percentage of NYC listings that were booked for more than 180 days between November 2014 and November 2015

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