City Council plotting Airbnb crackdown

Legislation would require company to share users’ addresses with city

Corey Johnson, Josh Meltzer and City Hall
Corey Johnson, Josh Meltzer and City Hall

The New York City Council is at work on a new bill that would be the biggest crackdown yet on Airbnb.

Councilmembers are writing a bill that would require Airbnb to provide addresses of their listings to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, according to Politico. The push comes amid a strong anti-Airbnb lobbying campaign from New York’s hotel industry accusing the company of lowering the stock of affordable housing in New York.

The bill would also require hosts to give their full names and addresses to the mayor’s office, report whether the home is their primary residence and say whether they are just renting a room or their entire home. Penalties would be applied to listings that do not comply with the reporting requirements, although lawyers for the City Council are still figuring out what these would be.

The City Council and Airbnb did not have statistics for how many rent-regulated apartments make up Airbnb listings, but politicians believe it takes low- and moderate-income housing off of the rental market based on anecdotal accounts.

Airbnb plans to oppose the legislation, which the company’s head of Northeast policy Josh Meltzer described as a fearmongering tactic.

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“Until there is an honest attempt by lawmakers to delineate the tens of thousands of hosts who are responsibly sharing their space and the few bad actors who take advantage of the system, we remain committed to pushing back against any legislation that solely aims to frighten hardworking New Yorkers,” he said.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer recently released a report on Airbnb concluding that the company was a factor behind rising rents in the city, although Airbnb and the independent data provider AirDNA, which Stringer’s office used to put the report together, both called the report’s findings into question.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who had consultants from the Hotel Trades Council work on his race for speaker, called last month to give $2 million extra to the Office of Special Enforcement.

In a statement to Politico, he said the bill would help prevent landlords from renting affordable housing units as illegal hotels, “and those who use the site without breaking the law will have no problem giving their name to the city. It’s a win for everyone except illegal hotels.” [Politico] – Eddie Small