The city started enforcing Airbnb fines. Then, a surprising thing happened

Outerborough neighborhoods like Bushwick and Sunset Park are seeing sharp increases in listings

From left: Airbnb Founders Chief Product Officer Joe Gebbia, CTO Nathan Blecharczyk and CEO Brian Chesky
From left: Airbnb Founders Chief Product Officer Joe Gebbia, CTO Nathan Blecharczyk and CEO Brian Chesky

Active Airbnb listings are up slightly since City Hall started handing out fines in February for illegal listings. And areas like Harlem and Bushwick, where affordable housing is in short supply, are seeing a marked increase.

Active listings, defined as a listing with at least one day of availability, stood at 30,215 in July, a 4.7 percent increase from the total in February, according to data by the watchdog group InsideAirbnb cited by Crain’s. That’s still below the peak of roughly 35,000 listings from January 2016.

In February, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement began issuing fines for illegal Airbnb listings after the state passed a law in June of 2016 setting fines starting at $1,000 for advertising illegal short-term listings on sites like Airbnb.

But while active listings are down in some parts of the city, others are seeing a notable increase. Active listings in Bedford Stuyvesant and Harlem, for example, saw their numbers increase 5 percent year-over-year in June. Bushwick saw its total rise 11.6 percent and Sunset Park saw the number skyrocket 29.2 percent.

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Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a member of anti-Airbnb group Share Better, said the growth in outer-borough listings is having a negative impact on housing.

“It makes Airbnb’s activity even worse, because it’s hastening gentrification in deeper parts of the boroughs,” she said.

A spokesperson for Airbnb said, “We are not surprised more and more hardworking New Yorkers are looking to home sharing as a way to earn extra money in an increasingly expensive city.”

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol has proposed legislation that would legalize short-term listings and require registration with the state.

In 2015, an analysis by The Real Deal found that Airbnb’s presence pushed up rents by as much as $69 in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and between $39 to $67 a month in other neighborhoods. [Crain’s]Rich Bockmann