Airbnb tells City Council that crackdown would hurt average New Yorkers

Office of Special Enforcement fielded approximately 1,150 illegal hotel complaints last year

From left: Councilman Mark Levine and Councilman Jumaane Williams
From left: Councilman Mark Levine and Councilman Jumaane Williams

At a City Council hearing today, representatives from short-term rental website Airbnb said that the majority of their hosts are full-time occupants who rent rooms intermittently to pull in extra income, rather than landlords running illegal hotels. As a consequence, cracking down on the multi-billion-dollar startup would hurt average New Yorkers, they said.

Council members heard testimony from representatives of the controversial Airbnb website, as well as New York tenants who say they are victims of landlords who have converted their apartment buildings into illegal hotels.

The panel was led by led Housing and Buildings Committee chair Jumaane Williams. Representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement fielded questions about responding to the issue of illegal hotels using a complaint-driven model, rather than proactively prosecuting violators. The enforcement office received 1,150 illegal hotel complaints last year, conducted 883 inspections, and issued just under 500 violations. A report by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office showed that over 16,000 New York City rooms were rented out on Airbnb last year.

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Elizabeth Glazer of the OSE defended the strategy. However, multiple council members objected to this approach, Curbed reported.

“Your job is to defend the budget allocations,” Councilman Mark Levine told Glazer. “It strains credulity [that the city could be investigating a significant portion of illegal hotels].”

Yesterday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s testimony revealed his anti-Airbnb position. In September, 25 Airbnb hosts sued to block the turning over of their private information to the city. [Curbed] — Tess Hofmann