Affordable housing saw a small victory this week after a Manhattan judge ruled that an Upper West Side SRO building cannot rent out rooms for less than 30 days.
The case went to court after the owner of the SRO in question, the Imperial Court Hotel at 307 West 79th Street, tried to rent his rooms out on Airbnb for short term stays. The building is designated for rent-stabilized, low-income tenants, and though a lower court had previously ruled in favor of the owner, a panel of appellate judges overturned that ruling on Thursday. According to the appellate ruling, the building was violating the State’s 2010 Multiple Dwelling Law, which prohibits rentals for less than 30 days in residential buildings with three or more units.
Tenant advocates and elected officials heralded the court for helping to protect affordable housing. "This is a victory for affordable housing and for New Yorkers who need an affordable place to live, and we look forward to seeing these units returned to the affordable housing stock," Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, whose district includes the Imperial Court building, said in a statement yesterday. "It’s also a relief for the Imperial Court tenants who have had to live with tourists coming in and out of their building at all hours of the night."
The landlord's attorney argued that the ruling would hurt people who needed affordable places to stay for short periods of time, but tenant advocates point out that short term stays actually keep tenants from earning rent-stabilized leases in SROs. The SRO law decrees that tenants who stay in a room for six months continuously (or who request a lease immediately upon taking occupancy in the space) are entitled to lifelong rent-stabilized leases—see our report from last year for tips on how to earn one of those leases.