Airbnb agrees to give listing info to city

Both sides claim win in mayor’s long-running bid to curb short-term rentals

New York /
Jun.June 12, 2020 03:31 PM
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky (Getty, iStock)

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky (Getty, iStock)

After more than a decade of war over home-rental listings, Airbnb and New York City have come to terms.

In a joint statement Friday, the startup and de Blasio administration announced an end to their legal dispute about whether the city can get data about Airbnb’s hosts.

Under the settlement, which has been in the works for months, the San Francisco-based startup agreed to dismiss its lawsuit and share listing information with the city on a quarterly basis, including hosts’ names, phone numbers, addresses and other details about the spaces they are renting.

Not all listings will be divulged. Exceptions include private or shared rooms that can fit no more than two guests; spaces that are infrequently rented; and listings by certain hospitality establishments such as bed-and-breakfasts or hostels, which will need to apply to the city to qualify.

Both sides chalked the result up as a win.

For Airbnb, the compromise gives the home-sharing platform a greater shot at getting state legislation passed. The city will get data to aid its crackdown on illegal short-term rentals.

“Illegal hotel operators who flout the law at the expense of working New Yorkers have no place in our neighborhoods,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Friday. “Finally, we’ll have the critical information we need to preserve affordable housing and keep our communities protected.”

Airbnb’s head of public policy, Christopher Lehane, said the company had “long wanted to work with New York City on an effective regulatory framework, including information sharing.” This agreement, he added, “achieves that.”

Officials in New York City, one of Airbnb’s biggest domestic markets, have been tussling with the company essentially since it first arrived. This particular dispute dates back to 2018, when Airbnb sued to block a city law requiring it to hand over data about its hosts, which the company claimed would violate privacy laws.

As a result of the settlement, the city must amend the legislation to include the exemptions agreed to by both parties. The new law will apply to all short-term rental platforms operating in the city.

Slated to go public this year, Airbnb has seen its revenues nosedive in recent months, as the pandemic halted travel around the world. In May, CEO Brian Chesky announced that the company was laying off 2,000 employees — some 25 percent of its workforce.

In addition to internal tumult, the company has been trying to soothe relations with its hosts, many of whom were upset that the company relaxed its cancellation policy to appease guests early in the pandemic. In response to the backlash, Chesky issued an apology and announced a relief package for hosts.

It remains to be seen how hosts in New York will respond to the new data requirements. In an email Friday, Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk said that while hosts would have to first give consent before their data would be shared, those who did not would be unable to list on Airbnb.

Explaining why the company agreed to the settlement, Blecharczyk pointed to Airbnb’s larger regulatory ambition, which is to end the state’s decade-old ban on renting a home for fewer than 30 days without an owner or tenant present.

“We believe this amended ordinance will build the trust necessary to enact further reforms of New York state’s short-term rentals regulations,” he wrote. “We hope that our willingness to be transparent enables the state and the city to feel reassured that short-term rentals can be effectively regulated without blunt prohibitions.”

The city has 120 days to pass the legislation, which would go into effect six months later.

Write to Sylvia Varnham O’Regan at [email protected]


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