New legislation before the City Council intended to crack down on Airbnb commercial operators would also impact all New Yorkers who use online home sharing websites to rent out their apartments. The bill, which was debated in the City Council earlier this week and is expected to pass, would require all Airbnb hosts to share their identities and addresses of their listings with the city's Office of Special Enforcement, as well as divulge whether the location is their primary residence, and how much of the unit is being rented out.
"This bill has one clear priority in mind," Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who introduced the bill, said at the hearing, the NY Times reports. "Protecting our affordable housing stock for the millions of New Yorkers who could not live here without it." Rivera condemned the "largely unmonitored rental market" that's been responsible for soaring rents, increased gentrification, and a shortage of apartments that some analyses suggest is partially a result of apartment owners renting their homes through Airbnb instead of to New Yorkers.
But home share proponents say the new bill would actually hurt New Yorkers who use the "shared economy" (that's largely responsible for companies like Uber and Airbnb) to make ends meet. New York is Airbnb's largest market in the United States, with more than 50,000 apartment rentals available. The Times reports that Airbnb declined to send representatives to City Council meeting on Tuesday; instead, the company's head of northeast public policy Josh Meltzler submitted written testimony, claiming the bill places "the interests of the hotel industry above the interests of New Yorkers who rely on opening their own home to stay in their home."
Meltzler said that last year, the average New York Airbnb host only shared their apartment for five nights a month and earned about $6,400 a year. He claims the bill would undermine the privacy of hosts through disclosure of personal information and could also lead city law enforcement to "harass and fine New Yorkers who share their own home."
It's clear that the hotel industry continues to see online rental companies like Airbnb as a threat to their bottom line, and the two sides are locked in a pitched battle in the media. A report from the American Hotel and Lodging Association from March of 2017 revealed that 81% of Airbnb's overall revenue (that's $4.6 billion) came from whole-unit rentals, or rentals where the owner isn't present during the duration of the rental period. 75% of Airbnb's New York revenue came from whole-unit rentals that year, the report alleged, generating $98 million in revenue.
Most Airbnb listings are technically illegal; under the New York State Multiple Dwelling law, rentals of entire units for fewer than 30 days are illegal unless the owner is present for the entire duration of the rental.
Christian Klossner, executive director of the Office of Special Enforcement for the city, said during the hearing that 20 to 30 percent of Airbnb listings operate with commercial frequency. According to Klossner, the new bill would "significantly" enhance the city's ability to crack down on illegal commercial hosts. Mayor Bill de Blasio is also in support of the legislation.