Airbnb’s comments on Int. 2309-2021

New York City aerial view

With regards to this legislation, Airbnb agrees with the belief of the sponsors that New Yorkers have the right to share their own space and that short-term rentals are an important element of a growing and recovering tourist economy that democratizes the tourism industry and shares the economic impact across neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs.

With the pandemic changing travel behavior, Airbnb is enabling the type of travel across the city that people feel comfortable with right now. Travel to the city has not been limited to a single borough, while Manhattan has been a popular borough for Airbnb guests, the majority of travel to New York City on Airbnb in the last year happened outside of Manhattan*. 

With Airbnb, visiting families can access an alternative way to experience New York City — one that delivers economic benefits not only through the income earned by hosts, but also via the money guests spend near their listings – at local cafes, restaurants, shops, attractions and other small businesses.

As the city seeks to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, Airbnb is helping drive the important return of tourism. New York City has emerged as one of the top destinations across the US this Fall on Airbnb.

The return of travel to NYC, enabled by Airbnb, is helping to drive important economic impact for a tourism economy that saw 67% less travel, $1.2 billion in lost tax revenue and tens of thousands of jobs lost**. 

  • Airbnb guest spending has helped support jobs across NYC’s tourism sector. According to a recent study by Oxford Economics, in 2019, Airbnb guest spending totaling $2.2 billion, supported 17,000 New York City jobs across the restaurant, retail, entertainment and transportation sectors.

It is also helping our local host community, many of whom are everyday people who turned to hosting as an economic lifeline during the pandemic. 

  • According to the latest survey of our Host community, nearly 15 percent of NYC Hosts work in education or health care, 10 percent work in retail, trade, transportation and utilities, 8 percent work in arts, entertainment and recreation and 5 percent work in hospitality and food services***.
  • Nearly one-third of our New York City Hosts received a pandemic-related pay-cut or lost hours, while 27 percent reported losing their jobs or being laid off****.
  • As a result, over 60 percent of New York City Airbnb Hosts stated that they used the money they earn from home sharing to stay in their home, with nearly 40 percent of hosts reporting that home sharing has helped them avoid eviction or foreclosure*****.
  • BetweenMarch 2020 and June 2021, New York City Hosts with only one listing and who welcomed their first guests during the pandemic, have earned more than $13 million******.
  • In 2019, more than half of Airbnb listings were located outside of Manhattan and Hosts in each borough made significant amounts of money with typical Host income of approximately $8,500 in Brooklyn, $8,700 in Queens, $9,000 in the Bronx, $12,000 in Staten Island and $11,000 in Manhattan*******. 

With the introduction of 2309, we are hopeful that New York City could be on the verge of clarifying the law and protecting the rights and abilities of residents to earn additional income that will allow them to remain in their homes, afford taxes, make infrastructure repairs, and meet other financial burdens. However, the bill would require some fundamental amendments to achieve this. 

As currently constructed, this bill places undue burdens on New Yorkers that would not only impede current hosts from utilizing their space for short-term rentals, but would also have a chilling effect on new, responsible residents who are seeking ways to earn extra money throughout the year.

While we fully support a registration system for short term rentals in New York City, the bill would also require that hosts hire an engineer, architect or inspector to certify the premises. Not only is there no other city in North America that requires this onerous obligation – which could cost hosts upwards of $500 and place NYC at a competitive disadvantage – but it singles out STR hosts with an expensive burden that does not apply to the countless transactions that landlords and tenants enter into in NYC’s rental market every day. If the intention is to ensure safety, New York City is already fully equipped to enforce safety standards given the extensive data STR platforms are required to provide to the city quarterly. Additionally, Airbnb has numerous policies and systems in place to promote trust and safety through our platform. 

Fundamentally, 2309 is a registration bill. However, not only does it impose expensive, onerous, and at times redundant requirements on every day New Yorkers seeking to make ends meet, but the legislation fails to provide requirements to the administering agency, OSE, on what types of units in New York City are eligible for a permit, devise a registration process that the average New Yorker can navigate, or ensure good-faith engagement by any agency that has unfairly and arbitrarily targeted homeowners and renters for years. 

We’re also concerned that the current registration requirements in the bill rest the authority to set the registration fees with the Office of Special Enforcement, but set no statutory cap. This is a slippery slope that would open the door to high registration fees that would overburden the very New Yorkers we are seeking to empower to remain in their homes. And it should be the priority of this Council, not a bureaucratic agency, to set a reasonable cap on registration fees in order to protect New York consumers.

Further, the current iteration of the bill requires STR hosts who are renters to obtain written consent from their landlords. This is another onerous requirement placed on would-be hosts who would more often than not find it difficult to obtain any additional written permissions from their landlord outside of their already extensive lease. Instead, at the point of registration, Airbnb supports providing hosts who are renters with a mechanism to attest that their lease does not explicitly prohibit home-sharing.

It does, however, with amendments, represent an opportunity for one of the last major cities in the world to establish a clear registration and regulatory framework for short term rentals.

As written, this bill also contains provisions that are illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law as well as numerous prior settlement agreements between Airbnb, New York City and New York state. 

Positively, Airbnb has had productive conversations with bill sponsors and supports the following:

Achieving clarity under the law for New Yorkers through legislation that establishes:

  • That hosts are eligible to register and operate STR from one non-Class B address in the 5 boroughs;
  • A registration requirement, so that the enforcement pool is narrowed, ensuring that enforcement agencies are better equipped to identify and enforce against illegal hotel operators and other bad actors;
  • A three-strikes rule that would revoke bad actors’ registration after three rule violations;
  • A prohibition on STR in housing subject to the emergency housing rent control law, the rent and rehabilitation law, local emergency housing rent control law, emergency tenant protection act of 1974, public housing law or otherwise rent subsidized, rent controlled, rent stabilized, or otherwise considered affordable housing;
  • A prohibition on STR for 1 year in any unit where a tenant has been evicted for non-payment of rent;
  • Collection of the NYC Hotel Room Occupancy Tax and city sales tax by all platforms, which – based on Airbnb’s 2019 bookings – would have generated $36 million in revenue; and,
  • A requirement that STR operators carry insurance for a minimum of $500,000 or list on a platform that carries such insurance.

We’re aware of the unique challenges faced by cities like New York, which have struggled with housing affordability long before Airbnb came into existence. What is best for New York City won’t be the same as what’s best for traditional vacation rental markets on Long Island or the Hudson Valley or emerging tourist economies like the Adirondacks or the Southern Tier.

Rather, policy needs to be carefully crafted to protect affordable housing, preserve quality of life, and – most importantly – to target enforcement resources to individuals who abuse home sharing by kicking tenants out of buildings to run illegal hotels.

As evidenced by countless meetings between our hosts and members of this Council, and our years-long efforts to enact comprehensive regulatory reform at the state level, we firmly believe that the Council can and should address issues related to short-term rentals with a reasonable framework that allows responsible home sharing in NYC. 

It’s clear NYC voters agree. In a poll conducted of New York City voters last year, the overwhelming majority said they see tourism as being a positive influence in their communities, and that people should be able to rent out their homes on Airbnb. 

  • Eight-seven percent of New York City voters believe that tourism was good for the City, including 7 out of 10 who believe that it was very good. 
  • More than two-thirds of New York City voters believe that New Yorkers should be allowed to rent out their home or a portion of their home through Airbnb********.

Intro #2309, if amended to address the problems and include the solutions we’ve raised today, presents the best opportunity for New York City to finally get this right for all New Yorkers.

*According to internal Airbnb data between August 2020 and August 2021


*** According to a survey of Airbnb Hosts from February 1, 2021 to March 3, 2021

****According to the survey cited above

*****According to the survey cited above

******According to internal Airbnb data between March 2020 and June 2021

*******According to internal Airbnb data from 2019

********DBR conducted a separate online survey of 1,000 adult New York City residents living outside of New York City from December 9-17, 2020. Participants in this survey were reached via online panel. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.1%