NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Popular and trendy neighborhoods in Manhattan accounted for 30% of units booked as private rentals on AirBnB.com, according to information subpoenaed by New York Attorney General (AG) Eric T. Schneiderman that Airbnb fought against releasing.
Those neighborhoods include the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Chelsea, Hells Kitchen, Greenwich Village and SoHo. “Removing rental units from the marketplace by operating them as illegal hotels damages the availability of housing,” said Roxanne Earley, a blogger with the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD).
Another tidbit from the AG’s report based on subpoenaed records is that commercial users of the home-sharing website collected $168 million in rent last year, controlled one in five AirBnb units and one in three bookings. “Although Airbnb is marketing itself as a company that helps the majority of its hosts make some extra money to keep their homes, the reality is that a multi-billion dollar business is helping a small portion of commercial users rake in a disproportionate amount of profit,” Earley told MainStreet.
New York City housing advocates are hopping mad that some 1,406 Airbnb hosts are considered commercial operators and renting up to 272 different apartment units.
“The markup on short-term rentals is much higher than that of long-term residential use of apartments and this has resulted in landlords breaking the law and using their units, sometimes whole buildings as illegal hotels,” said Earley.
And that’s eating into affordable housing units that city residents could be living in. “Commercial users earn an incredible markup on short term rentals and take units that may otherwise be affordable off of the market for long term occupancy,” Earley said.
The existence of rent regulation is unique to cities like New York and San Francisco and further complicates the Airbnb factor. Administered by a court or public authority, rent regulation limits the changes in price that can be attached to renting a home, which balances the negotiating power of landlord to tenant.
"If rent regulated apartments become profit-centers, tenants may also be incentivized to hang on to their apartments longer than they would otherwise, negatively impacting the availability of affordable housing for those who would use it purely for their own personal residence,” said David Reiss, professor at Brooklyn Law School.
Even New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s pledge to provide and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in the next ten years can’t stop Airbnb. “It constrains the availability of affordable housing and puts more strain on the city stock,” said Earley.
Tenants who feel they are being pushed out of their apartments for Airbnb short term rentals by their landlord or who are concerned about the operation of an illegal hotel in their building or neighborhood can file a complaint with the City by dialing 311.
“Individual New Yorkers renting part or all of their home to tourists can result in a violation of their lease or eviction especially if the lease is for some type of rent regulated housing,” Earley said.
—Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet