Hunter's Point South in Long Island City received 93,000 applicants last year, for fewer than 1,000 affordable apartments—the largest response ever to a housing lottery in the history of New York City's affordable housing program. The lobby has stone floors imported from Italy and a massive mirror with gold foil overlay; a bicycle blender in the organic roof garden churns out strawberry smoothies. And this week, a few of the lottery-winning tenants reportedly got caught listing their apartments on Airbnb for up to $500 a night.
The state's Multiple-Dwelling Law prohibits New Yorkers from renting out entire apartments for under 30 days if the tenant on the lease is not present.
One couple told CBS that they were planning to rent out their apartment for the Thanksgiving holiday, which is technically illegal if not on the same scale as those illegal hotel operators the City Council has long waged war against. At a Housing and Buildings Committee hearing last month, Councilmember Jumaane Williams clarified that, "We are not trying to go after a grandma who rents on the weekend to go on vacation. If there's someone who rents 20 weekends out of the year, that's illegal."
But for Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, it's the principal of the thing. "It is so outrageous and such a violation of the spirit of this," he told CBS. "We are not going to ever use taxpayer dollars to allow someone to falsely get in to an affordable housing complex and then turn it around and try and flip it for their own profit."
Queens was recently deemed the city's most rent-burdened borough.
While all 925 units at Hunter's Point South are technically "affordable," owner Related Companies accepted applications from a wide range of income brackets. In fact, only 20% of the units are designated for low-income tenants. For example: 58 of the one bedrooms cost $689 or less, while 229 of them cost between $1,965 and $2,509.
All of the offending Airbnb listings have reportedly been removed, at the request of Related Companies. "Any residents found to be in violation of the rent-stabilization laws will immediately have their leases terminated," said the building owners in a statement.
Earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio committed $10 million to sniffing out illegal hotels hosted through sites like Airbnb. Until quite recently, the Mayor's Office only investigated potential illegal hotels when a complaint was filed. With this new funding, the City will actively seek them out.
Following the Hunter's Point South debacle, Van Bramer has urged the city to "use some of their new resources" to investigate illegal hotel use in rent regulated and rent stabilized buildings specifically.
Reached for comment, Airbnb stated that as of today, "We have no listings in that building."