NYC set to join Airbnb crackdown

NEW YORK • The New York City Council has voted unanimously to significantly restrict Airbnb and other online home rental services, joining a growing movement of cities around the globe in stepping up regulation of the so-called sharing economy.

The Bill aims to prevent landlords and tenants from illegally renting out apartments for a few days at a time to tourists, a phenomenon that the city said has aggravated the housing crisis by making short-term rentals more profitable than long-term leases.

Online rental services like Airbnb and HomeAway would be required to provide the addresses and names of hosts to the city's Office of Special Enforcement every month and to note whether rentals are for a whole apartment or just a room.

If the Bill is signed into law, New York will join cities like San Francisco and New Orleans, as well as Barcelona and Vancouver, in regulating companies that profit from facilitating short-term rentals.

New York City is Airbnb's largest domestic market, but under state law, it is illegal in most buildings for an apartment to be rented out for less than 30 days unless the permanent tenant is residing in the apartment at the same time.

The new disclosure requirements would make it much easier for the city to enforce the state law and could lead to many of the 50,000 units rented through Airbnb in the city coming off the market. After similar rules went into effect in San Francisco, listings fell by half.

"The vacancy rate in New York City is very low," Council Speaker Corey Johnson said before the vote on Wednesday.

"We're in an affordable housing crisis. We're in a homelessness crisis. And Airbnb will not give us this data."

A City Hall spokesman said the new restrictions had the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has made affordable housing one of his priorities, and he is expected to sign the Bill into law.

Companies will face fines of up to US$1,500 ($2,050) for each listing they fail to disclose, down from the US$25,000 originally proposed.

Airbnb opposed the Bill, arguing that it would hurt everyday New Yorkers who were renting spare rooms in their apartments to make ends meet. Throughout the debate over the Bill, the company accused City Council members of kowtowing to the hotel industry.

Last month, Airbnb published a list of City Council members and how much the hotel industry had contributed to each of their campaigns.

"After taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the hotel industry, we're not surprised the City Council refused to meet with their own constituents who rely on home sharing to pay the bills and then voted to protect the profits of big hotels," Ms Liz DeBold Fusco, a spokesman for Airbnb, said in a statement.

She added that the Bill would violate the privacy of the sites' users and subject them to "unchecked, aggressive harassment".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2018, with the headline 'NYC set to join Airbnb crackdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe