A new study from NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer claims that Airbnb is "responsible for nearly 10 percent of citywide rental increase between 2009 and 2016." Further, his office claims that New York renters paid $616 million in 2016 alone because of the home-sharing service. The report's premise is that there's greater demand for housing in NYC because some apartments that could be rented to New Yorkers are instead used for more lucrative Airbnb rentals, an illegal but still lightly enforced phenomenon.
The comptroller offers details about the study and findings on a website, including, "Airbnb listings were heavily concentrated in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn and had a greater impact on these neighborhoods. Approximately 20% of the increase in rental rates was due to Airbnb listings in midtown and lower Manhattan including neighborhoods such as Chelsea, Clinton, and Midtown Business District; Murray Hill, Gramercy, and Stuyvesant Town; Chinatown and Lower East Side; Battery Park City, Greenwich Village, and Soho as well as parts of Brooklyn including Greenpoint and Williamsburg."
By the comptroller's office's calculations, rent increased at this rate in between 2009 and 2016 in those neighborhoods:
- Greenpoint and Williamsburg - 62.6% ($659 per month)
- Bedford-Stuyvesant - 47.2% ($407 per month)
- Bushwick - 39.5% ($369 per month)
- Murray Hill, Gramercy and Stuyvesant Town - 25.9% ($488 per month)
- Chelsea, Clinton and Midtown Business District - 23.4% in ($398 per month)
- Chinatown and Lower East Side - 23% ($242 per month)
- Battery Park City, Greenwich Village and Soho - 21.4% ($411 per month).
"For years, New Yorkers have felt the burden of rents that go nowhere but up, and Airbnb is one reason why. From Bushwick to Chinatown and in so many neighborhoods in-between, affordable apartments that should be available to rent never hit the market, because they are making a profit for Airbnb," Stringer said in a statement. "Airbnb has grown exponentially at the expense of New Yorkers who face rising rents and the risk of being pushed out of communities they helped build. If we’re going to preserve the character of our neighborhoods and expand our middle class, we have to put people before profits. It’s that simple."
Airbnb has responded with its own comprehensive response on Airbnb Citizen, insisting that middle class families are able to live in NYC—and keep up with the high rents—because they have the opportunity to Airbnb their homes.
The company dismisses Stringer's study, saying there's shoddy methodology and pointing out that "home prices in New York City were soaring long before Airbnb was even founded, increasing by 124% from 1996 to 2006 alone." It also lists various affordable housing developments that Stringer has opposed.
"Pandering to the powerful by attacking middle class families won’t do a thing to make New York more affordable. It’s time to stop the scapegoating and work with us on a solution," Airbnb Citizen states.
Airbnb is being targeted by the NYC hotel sector, which recently spent $1 million on a TV and direct mail campaign to question Airbnb's practices. The hotel trades union is also a longtime powerful contributor to political campaigns.
Airbnb filed a FOIA request with NYC’s comptroller’s office to find out who it talked to in writing its report. Airbnb head of policy Chris Lehane said, “I think this is a snow job and I want to see who’s behind the snow”
— Dara Kerr (@darakerr) May 3, 2018
Update, May 4: AirDNA, which is, according to a press release, "[t]he world’s leading provider of Airbnb data and analytics," claims that Stringer's report is "deeply flawed"—more details here. For instance, "The Comptroller mistakes every unique listing ever uploaded onto the site as the number listings that were active in that year. A large portion of Airbnb listings are not active. They sit idly on the site, made unavailable for rent by hosts and/or unbooked by guests, and therefore have little to no effect on rent prices."