February 24, 2016
Among the crowds of people seeking to influence state government today – it is Tuesday, AKA Lobby Day, after all – look for a big showing by the anti-Airbnb set, which is making a renewed push against the online lodging service.
The effort has united two groups that are often, though not always, on opposite ends of the agenda spectrum – landlords (most notably, REBNY) and affordable housing/tenant advocates.
Landlords are upset that they’re losing money to people renting out multiple units and also footing the bill for fines, since the practice is, officially speaking, illegal in NYC, and the onus is on the property owner, not the individual doing the renting.
Housing advocates, meanwhile, are upset that potentially affordable apartments are being tied up in the illegal hotel trade.
Also in the mix is the Hotel Trades Council, which obviously doesn’t like the undercutting of business for the facilities that employ its members.
The campaign against Airbnb has also united Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans from NYC. (Note that since this is an election year – and yet another critical battle for control of the Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike are particularly interested in keeping their constituencies happy, whether that means REBNY for the Senate GOP or HTC for the Assembly Democrats).
Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican; and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat, are sponsoring a new bill in their respective houses that would make New York the first state in the nation to ban the online advertising of illegal hotels.
A source familiar with the new measure said the idea is to give law enforcement a stronger tool with which to catch people in the act of breaking the law regarding illegal rentals in NYC – something that currently very difficult to do.
“This legislation targets series illegal hotel kingpins who advertise and rent out multiple units by providing enforcement entities with strong new tools to crack down on egregious law breaking,” Rosenthal said in a statement provided to CapTon by the Share Better Coalition.
REBNY President John Banks said his organization has “major concerns” about the illegal short-term rental of apartments, noting the practice is not only illegal, but also creates safety concerns and quality-of-life issues.
“We support the enactment and enforcement of laws that work to minimize illegal short-term rentals and ensure that the appropriate party is held responsible when a violation of law does occur,” Banks said.”
More than 500 Share Better Coalition members are expected in Albany today. They will be holding a rally at 11 a.m. at the Million Dollar Staircase, and are expected to meet with some 40 state lawmakers throughout the day to make the case for the Rosenthal/Lanza bill.
This comes amid a not particularly positive news cycle for Airbnb, which is under fire for failing to provide accurate data on its listings. The company has consistently insisted that the majority of its users are “everyday” people who are looking to make a little extra cash by renting out a single room or apartment for a very short period of time.
State law bans apartment rental for fewer than 30 days unless the permanent occupant is present. But it stands to reason that anyone who is offering multiple listings for rent on Airbnb cannot be in two – or more – places at once.