City Issues Subpoena For Information On Airbnb Listings In NYC

Dashed Arrow Jake Dobkin / Gothamist

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced that the city had issued a subpoena against the home-sharing giant Airbnb, demanding information on approximately 20,000 Airbnb listings in New York City, saying that such sites encourage the use of illegal hotels that wind up draining the city's affordable housing supply.

De Blasio tweeted a clip of his appearance on NY1's "Inside City Hall," where he said, "We want to see their listings, we want to see which apartments are being rented out. We want to make sure there are not illegal hotels."

"People are worried about the loss of affordable housing," he added. "They are worried about the loss of security."

The subpoena represents the latest effort in a longstanding battle by city officials to get Airbnb and similar websites like HomeAway to share their data. Just last month, a federal judge blocked the city’s effort to impose a law, which would have gone into effect next month and required home-sharing companies to provide the city with a monthly report on all of their listings, including the identities and address of their hosts.

The demand for such a wide breadth of personal user data has been met by resistance from Airbnb officials, who have in recent years been forced to submit to some degree of regulation. The company has instead offered to create a registration system as it did in San Francisco in 2017 as part of a legal settlement with the city. The registration system requires name, address and zip code from users who rent their homes for less than a month. The city can then use the data to identify “bad actors.”

In a letter sent to de Blasio on Monday morning, Chris Lehane, the head of global policy for Airbnb, urged the mayor to follow San Francisco’s lead. He also stressed that the company was here to stay.

"At the end of the day, we know that home sharing is here to stay in the Empire State, which boasted a record year of tourism in 2018—one that included more than 3.3 million inbound Airbnb guests, not to mention the 4.4 million New Yorkers who used Airbnb to travel, " Lehane wrote. "We hope you’ll work with us to find a path that allows them to keep their doors open while closing the doors of illegal hotel operators."

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