The Real Deal New York

It’s the hotel industry that’s displacing NYC residents: Airbnb-affiliated group

Excessive hotel construction is cannibalizing potential space for apartments, Internet Association claims

September 16, 2016 07:00AM
By Chava Gourarie

Airbnb founders Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk and Brian Chesky

Airbnb founders Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk and Brian Chesky

Call it a case of “I know you are but what am I?” A lobbying group closely connected to short-term rental giant Airbnb claims that hotel development is responsible for over 750 residential units being removed from New York City’s housing market over the last six years.

The report, created by the high-tech trade group Internet Association, of which Airbnb is a member, largely relies on city planning data to argue that 773 existing housing units have been replaced by hotels since 2010. The report also claims 750,000 square feet of space that could have been used for housing was instead developed for hotels.

One of the authors of the Internet Association report, Christopher Hooton, said the analysis intends to “correct the record” that short-term rental platforms are to blame for the city’s housing market woes.

“The factors driving up prices, specifically residential prices, is not a clear, clean story,” he told The Real Deal. “One of the factors, which is generally not being discussed, is the hotel industry which has been eating up residential space.”

According to the Internet Association, since 2010 hotels are directly responsible for the removal of 488 housing units in Brooklyn, 270 in Manhattan and 15 in Queens. It also notes that NYC hotel inventory is up 47 percent over the past decade, and that the projected inventory of 135,000 hotel rooms by 2019 exceeds the current demand. It’s a point not without merit: the occupancy rate in Manhattan fell last year by .8 percent to 86.4 percent, according to hotel research firm STR. And the city’s official tourism bureau counts 124 hotel development projects in the pipeline throughout the city, 72 in Manhattan alone.

Meanwhile, Airbnb — which effectively creates unapproved hotel rooms in existing residential buildings — by its own accounting had roughly 2,500 commercial listings throughout New York City in 2015.

Austin Shafran, a spokesperson for Share Better, a coalition of hotel interests that opposes Airbnb, called the Internet Association’s report “bogus.”

“Airbnb has stolen tens of thousands of affordable housing units from NYC residents,” Shafran wrote in an email, adding that Airbnb is trying to “shift the blame for the city’s housing crisis.”

The San Francisco-based startup, valued at $30 billion in August, has been fighting tooth-and-nail with hotel groups and legislators who claim it has exacerbated the city’s housing crunch.

Share Better was among the groups that supported a state bill that levies fines up to $7,500 on New York hosts who advertise illegal listings. The bill has yet to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Airbnb recently launched an ad campaign espousing the site’s benefits to middle-class New Yorkers.