Is Airbnb playing a role in NYC’s skyrocketing rents?

New report says there are more short-term rentals available in city than standard ones

Competition for Rentals Heats Up in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens
(Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

Looking to rent an apartment in New York City? Maybe you should instead consider taking a vacation here.

Curbed is reporting the number of short-term rentals of apartments through online services such as Airbnb in the Big Apple has exceeded the number of standard rental units — just as bidding wars have sent the cost of rents in the city skyrocketing to record heights.

In April, the number of full units available to rent in Brooklyn, Manhattan and northwest Queens had fallen to just 7,669, according to a report by the real estate firm Douglas Elliman, while two websites tracking the number of short-term rentals on Airbnb reported it had reached more than 10,000 — and could be closer to 20,000.

That disparity may be a sign that landlords are cashing in on a post-Covid-lockdown world in which short-term rentals have the potential to bring in more money than traditional rentals.

The net effective median rent on a unit with concessions in Manhattan hit a new high in April of $3,870, according to a monthly report provided to Douglas Elliman by appraisal firm Miller Samuel. At 39 percent above April 2021 levels, that price point was the highest annual surge rate on record.

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According to Crain’s, there were about 4,700 apartments available to rent in Manhattan in April, down substantially from the 20,743 on the market in April 2021. And the vacancy rate there was just above 1.5 percent in April, the second-lowest figure on record, according to Miller Samuel.

Airbnb has routinely denied its service plays a role in the housing shortages, claiming instead that it provides supplemental income that helps people keep living in expensive cities they might otherwise not be able to afford. Those homes are only supposed to be rented when those living there are temporarily away. In the past, the city has cracked down of homeowners and landlords who have illegally rented their homes to short-term renters.

The report did not include the Bronx or Staten Island, where fewer than 1,000 entire-apartment-or-house listings were available, according to data provided to the website by Airbnb tracker AirDNA.

Reach by the New York Post, a representative of Airbnb blamed the rise in rents on the lack of below-market housing in the city.

“The data is inaccurate. The real problem is, New York City simply has not built enough affordable housing,” the spokesperson told The Post. “That’s why the cost of housing is up everywhere, for everyone. Rather than attack regular people who are using their homes to help pay the bills and cover rising food and other costs, leadership needs to focus on building more housing for people. Airbnb wants to be part of that solution and help.”

[Curbed] — Vince DiMiceli