The Real Deal New York

Airbnb rallies NY users in lobbying effort to fight bill

Listing website battling legislation that would raise fines on illegal listings
September 23, 2016 12:02PM

Michael Nutter and Chris Lehane

Michael Nutter and Chris Lehane

Airbnb is trying to counter the lobbying force of its opponents in the hotel and real estate industries by organizing its 46,000 New York users.

“You, the Airbnb community, are the face of a movement,” Michael Nutter, former Philadelphia mayor and current Airbnb adviser, told users at a Sept. 10 meeting.

The company, which allows people to list rooms or entire units on a short-term basis, is facing a bill that would dramatically increase fines for those who list rooms in violation of state laws. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to sign the bill, which was passed by the state Legislature.

Hotel industry groups, unions and real estate interests have spent $26 million on donations to Cuomo and other key politicians. They claim the listing website destroys hospitality jobs and shrinks the city’s affordable housing stock by turning apartments into de-facto hotels.

“The overwhelming majority of people who do this are middle-class, everyday folks who use the platform to generate supplemental income,” Airbnb’s head of policy Chris Lehane told the Journal. “This is an idea so big and so popular special interests are not going to be able to stop it.”

Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, countered that Airbnb “has been breaking our laws with impunity.”

Airbnb recently launched a $1 million ad campaign to convince Cuomo to veto the bill.

A FiveThirtyEight investigation in August found that commercial listings, or listings that are leased out more than 180 days a year, make up a third of Airbnb hosts’ revenue[Bloomberg]Konrad Putzier