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As rents in NYC skyrocket, the City Council moves to regulate Airbnb

Written by
Clayton Guse
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After months of debate, New York City officials decided to crack down on Airbnb and other home-sharing services this week. In a City Council meeting on Wednesday, the body unanimously approved a measure to impose stricter regulations for online short-term rental services in the five boroughs. 

The bill doesn't necessarily kneecap Airbnb's services in the city, but it requires the company and others like it to provide more transparency into the apartments that are being listed on its platform. It still requires sign-off from Mayor Bill de Blasio (which is all but guaranteed), but when it goes into effect Airbnb will be required to provide information on the names of hosts, addresses, length and cost of short-term rentals facilitated by the company. It will also force Airbnb to disclose whether or not a rental comprises of a part of or the entirety of a unit. Failure to provide the required information would result in either a $1,500 fine for each listing in a given reporting period, or the total amount of fees collected on a listing in the previous year—whichever is greater. 

The legislation comes just months after New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer's office released a report on apartment sharing services. It determined that a surge of Airbnb listings that violate city and state laws has been a chief factor in the rapid escalation of rent in the city. It noted that the average cost of rent across the five boroughs has increased by 25 percent since 2009, while the number of Airbnb listings grew from just 1,000 in 2010 to a whopping 40,000 in 2016. Stringer's office says that those two statistics are tied at the hip, and services like Airbnb are burning a hole in New Yorkers' wallets. 

Airbnb immediately clapped back. The company issued a statement that took aim at the findings in the report, pointing out that the majority of Airbnb hosts share homes in which they live, and claimed that rents across the five boroughs are declining. The statement also took issue with the report’s methodology, stating that it inaccurately counted Airbnb listings as permanent housing. Still, criticism about the legality of the company's practices have been swirling for years—a 2014 report from former New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found that 72 percent of the short-term rentals on the platform were in violation of city or state housing laws, which prohibit rentals of less than 30 days in buildings that are designated for residential purposes.

What effect the legislation will have on Airbnb in the city remains to be seen. New York is the company's largest domestic market, and the company has repeatedly claimed that it helps middle class New Yorkers make ends meet by allowing them to rent out individual rooms in their apartments.

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