New York City’s latest plans to crack down on illegal short-term rentals – which could remove as many as 10,000 Airbnb listings later this year – is sparking fierce debates about housing, hotels, the tourist market and residents’ rights.
The new rules will hit those New Yorkers who make extra income by hosting – renting out apartments on Airbnb and similar platforms – but blur city laws, while potentially easing the burden on long-suffering city renters.
Hosts are decrying the tightening as overreach by the city authorities, while advocates for tenants and communities are celebrating.
With the new regulations, the city is aiming to enforce regulations around thousands of illegal short-term rentals across the city, according to Christian Klossner, the executive director of New York City mayor’s office of special enforcement, which will oversee implementation of the law.
“Regular people have been lured on to the site where it is easy to advertise illegal occupancy without restraint,” said Klossner, who pointed to Airbnb’s main launching page that recruits hosts based on revenue they could make from entire home occupancy, which is not permitted in the city.
Local Law 18, passed by the city council last year, would now require short-term rentals to be registered with the city.
Legal short-term rentals are any properties where no more than two people are hosted, the host resides in the dwelling unit, and where guests have access to all parts of the dwelling unit, according to the city.
Under the crackdown, hosts would need to prove that they reside in the rented properties, that the home is up to safety code and other requirements that amount to a stronger enforcement of existing laws relating to multiple dwellings and permanent residencies.
Platforms that advertise short-term rentals, such as Airbnb and Vrbo, would also be required to ensure that all hosts using the app are abiding by city law and are properly registered.
Previously, the city would rely on individual complaints to address issues with short-term rentals or rely on platforms to enforce the regulations themselves.
But under new rules, any hosts in violation could be found between $1,000 and $5,000.
Tom Cayler, chair of the Coalition Against Illegal Hotels and a member of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance, emphasized that Local Law 18 is about enforcing dwelling requirements that already exist.
“We made no amendments to the law whatsoever. All this registration requires is that platforms and hosts comply with the existing laws,” said Cayler.
This is the latest chapter in the long saga that has pitted residential communities, hotel businesses, advocates for affordable housing and city leaders across the US and in many others countries near and far against the long-proliferating power and appeal of hosting platforms, given the flexibility they provide travelers.
Santa Monica, California, which Klossner cited as a model for New York, banned renting whole units for less than 30 days, reported the Los Angeles Times. Santa Monica also requires those participating in home-sharing, such as renting out a spare room, to register with the city and pay taxes on the extra income.
philadelphia also brought in tighter regulations with the new year.
There are over 40,000 Airbnb listings in New York, according to data from Inside Airbnba data project on Airbnb and its impact in cities worldwide.
“They changed the use of an apartment from a residential property into a hotel,” said Murray Cox, founder of Inside Airbnb.
Proponents of Local Law 18 have also criticized the impact that short-term rentals can have on neighborhoods.
According to Klossner, neighbors living near a short-term rental often complain about disruption, including noise, weekday parties that can feature excessive drinking and drug use, and other disturbances as well as security concerns.
“People want to feel safe and secure and at peace in their homes,” said Klossner.
“Short-term rentals very often turn into a disruption of that peace.”
But Farhana Chowdhury, for example, wrote in a city online forum that renting out space via Airbnb helped pay for her mortgage and children’s college education.
“It is unfair that we have to be so restricted in our own homes,” said Chowdhury.
Airbnb has also commented on the pending law, saying that new regulations could hurt New Yorkers who rely on short-term rentals amid the rising cost of living in the city.
Airbnb’s public policy regional lead, Nathan Rotman, issued a statement, NPR reportedwhich said: “Airbnb agrees regular New Yorkers should be able to share their home and not be targeted by the City, and we urge the administration to work with our Host community to support a regulatory framework that helps responsible Hosts and targets illegal hotel operators .”
But Klossner and Cox pushed back, with Cox adding that many complaining are “anti-tenant”.
“They’re taking housing off the market that should be rented to tenants,” said Cox.
“Airbnb is this tool for landlords that don’t want to be landlords.”
Klossner said long-term occupancy was the goal.
“The city is in the middle of a housing shortage. Every unit of housing that’s only legal use is for permanent residency needs to be used as permanent residency,” said Klossner.