Something in Airbnb: Anxious hosts as New York begins crackdown | Airbnb

A war of words between Airbnb and New York, its largest market, escalated with the city’s first fine in what is expected to be a repression on the “hosts”.

Tatiana Cames, a host who advertised “shabby chic” apartments in Brooklyn to tourists and business travelers, has been fined $5,000. Penalties will increase if she continues to rent. The fine was seen by a member of the National Assembly as “just the start” of the crackdown.

New Yorkers who make money offering their apartments for short-term rental through Airbnb have come out confused, unhappy and nervous.

“I don’t know if it’s legal or not,” said Sierra Kraft, 30, who works for a nonprofit credentialing service and, via Airbnb, rents out her tiny one-bedroom apartment in an old apartment building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “I rent my apartment when I go on a trip and my lease stipulates that I can receive guests for less than 30 days.”

Unfortunately, city and state laws say otherwise: Kraft is prohibited from renting out its listing for less than 30 days, and it’s illegal to advertise it on Airbnb or other sharing platforms. house.

Kraft has been an Airbnb “host” for four years, previously renting an apartment higher up in town near Columbia University.

“It probably wasn’t legal either,” she said. But, she says, “the rent is so expensive in New York.” And visitors love it.

“I’ve had parents visiting their children, friends, I have a couple now and the next ones are coming to town to take their bar exam. It’s cheaper than a hotel and it’s a great way to connect people from all over the world.

Kraft was staying with her boyfriend in Brooklyn and preparing for a trip to Thailand and Malaysia, where she planned to rent a place on Airbnb. She has also been an Airbnb guest in Portland, Oregon, as well as Colombia and Turkey. She estimates that she earns around $2,000 a year from renting out her apartment.

Airbnb offers 46,000 units in New York. Authorities say he threatens hotels and takes affordable housing of a desperate market for more.

“I understand the point of view of the city,” Kraft said, “but it’s such an easy way for tourists to get in and out, and it’s good for people like me to earn a bit more .”

The good news for Kraft and thousands of people like her is that it seems the city doesn’t have the resources — or necessarily the will — to hunt down people who have homes and rent them out for a few weeks a year. The targets, at least initially, are commercial players advertising multiple units.

cams was describe by the city council as a broker who bought a Brooklyn brownstone for $2 million in 2015, then rented out five apartments inside through Airbnb. She was fined $1,000 for each apartment. If found in violation a second time, the penalty increases to $5,000 per unit, then to $7,500. The listing has been removed from Airbnb.

The other person fined last week did not advertise on Airbnb but broke a state law that prohibits posting short-term rentals on similar home-sharing sites or travel sites such as Expedia or Orbitz. According to the city council, it was a landlord offering illegal rentals inside a Manhattan hotel.

“These two fines are just the beginning,” said New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal. “There are very strict laws on the books.”

“We’re not going after the little guy”

Airbnb exploded onto the travel scene in 2008 and is now present in 200 countries, having hosted 140 million customer bookings worldwide. battles with other cities have reached agreements, such as in London, Sydney, Paris, Chicago and Portland. Other cities, including San Francisco and Barcelonaare still uncertain ground.

New York has had a particularly stubborn stalemate. As of 2010, it is illegal under city law to rent a home in a building with more than two units, in most cases, and where the resident is not present during the guests’ stay.

Rosenthal led state legislation last year banning the advertising of such homes on platforms like Airbnb. The San Francisco-based company sued, then installed. But talks to reach an agreed operating system have failed and there are currently no negotiations between the company and the authorities.

Rosenthal said too many Airbnb guests in one building can be a nuisance to other residents.

“When they block the elevator, use the washing machines and clutter the hall with all their suitcases, it violates the rights of residents,” she said, adding that the safety of guests, hosts and neighbors is at risk. more at risk than when tourists stay in regulated hotels, she said.

She accused Airbnb of “marauding” across New York and not doing enough to negotiate with authorities or veterinary hosts illegally advertising on its site.

Airbnb supporters gather before a town hall hearing in January 2015. Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

“Their attitude is ‘We’re too big to fail now’ and that’s disrupting the housing market,” she said. “But cities are fighting back.”

She added, “Airbnb is defending the right of middle-class New Yorkers to use the service to make ends meet, but in their lawsuit they wanted to make sure the hosts were fined, not the business.”

Rosenthal said people who only rented their own homes were not the main target of the crackdown.

“We’re not going after the little guy,” she said. “Resources for enforcement are limited. The target is serial offenders who rent one or two or more units beyond their own personal unit.

An Airbnb spokesman, Peter Schottenfels, said the company calculated that 96% of New Yorkers renting an entire unit offered their own home.

“We support a one guest, one home policy,” he said. “If they’re only cracking down on ‘bad actors’, we’re fine with that. But the law offers no protection for people who are only doing this for a little extra money.

Schottenfels said larger commercial “bad actors” have disrupted the city’s housing market. The company had removed 4,000 such ads from its site in the city since November 2015, he said.

Steve, who preferred not to give his last name, earns up to $35,000 more a year renting out the extra upstairs apartment in his home in Queens.

“I’m retired and we’re supporting a son at a very expensive college in Boston, so that’s what it helps pay for,” he said.

“Some people like to stay in hotels, some don’t. Personally, I’m sick of it – it’s not just the price, it’s the shitty carpets, the smell of chlorine in the pool. And I stayed in an area of ​​Detroit with Airbnb that was Polish and is now largely Muslim and I loved it, I would never have explored it otherwise and it was fascinating.

“There is a housing justice problem”

Airbnb opponents gather at New York City Hall in 2015.
Airbnb opponents gather at City Hall. Photography: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters/Reuters

Murray Cox is a Brooklyn resident who pulls publicly available information from Airbnb’s website and sees himself as a corporate watchdog, via his software company. Inside Airbnb. He fears that the company will contribute to the gentrification of certain neighborhoods.

After analyzing Airbnb data, Cox estimates that in his neighborhood, Stuyvesant Heights, 80% of Airbnb hosts were white. In the general population, according to the 2014 census, only 8% of the neighborhood was white.

“There is a housing justice issue, racial justice in parts of this city, and people displaced by gentrification,” he said.

“I fear that some long-term residents, who add more to the culture of an area than tourists, will be evicted and replaced by new residents who have more capital to settle as hosts. Airbnb and changing the face of a historic district. ”

In a statement, Airbnb said 73% of Americans polled support people’s right to home share and “84% of those who know Airbnb view us favorably.” He also said seniors and residents of low-income neighborhoods are a fast-growing part of his host community.

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