NYC, Facing Housing Crisis, Targets Illegal Airbnb Owners

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Airbnb recently announced that it had its best quarter ever, reflecting a surging thirst for travel and tourism as the pandemic's grip loosens. But in New York City, the company is at the center of a different narrative: City leaders, after fighting for years to limit the proliferation of illegal short-term rentals, are poised to impose more stringent restrictions on the online platform. The City Council on Thursday is expected to approve a bill that would for the first time require hosts to register with the city before renting out their homes on a short-term basis or for less than 30 days. The measure mirrors regulations in other cities like Boston and Santa Monica, Calif. In New York City, one of Airbnb's biggest domestic markets, city officials and housing advocates have long complained that landlords and tenants have exacerbated the housing crisis by circumventing laws and setting aside homes to rent out for a few days at a time to tourists or other visitors. Short-term rentals are often more lucrative than long-term leases. And the hotel industry, which has been decimated by the pandemic, has long complained about Airbnb and similar online rental companies, accusing them of siphoning away business. The new bill is designed to prevent rentals that violate those laws -- including a New York State law that largely bars apartment rentals for less than 30 days when the host is not present -- from even appearing online. Supporters said the new restrictions could lead to the gradual removal of thousands of listings for such illegal rentals from short-term rental websites. The bill's supporters said New York's proposed law had been designed to ensure compliance because it requires online rental platforms like Airbnb to verify that a listing has been properly registered with the city before the platform can collect any fees. Fines for hosts who fail to abide by the rule could be up to $5,000, and platforms like Airbnb could be fined $1,500 for every illegal transaction. [...] It's not clear exactly how many of the listings in New York City are illegal, and the effectiveness of the new bill will depend in part on how well the city enforces the new law. In places like Santa Monica, Boston and San Francisco, data has shown a modest to significant decrease in the number of listings after a registration system went into place. Based on the number of listings advertising short-term rentals for entire homes or apartments in the city, suggesting a host may not be present, supporters of the bill estimate that up to roughly 19,000 Airbnb listings could be illegal and eventually delisted. "According to data from Inside Airbnb, an independent data-tracking website, there were more than 37,700 Airbnb listings in New York City at the beginning of November 2021," the report notes. "That was significantly below the prepandemic level of more than 49,200 in November 2019." Stephen Smith, a co-founder of real estate firm Quantierra, said the bill would not do enough to stem the city's housing crisis. "These politicians seem to think that this is going to do something for affordability, and in fact it's likely to do very little," he said. The combination of the bill along with another city initiative to curb new hotel development could greatly reduce the number of affordable places visitors to the city can stay, Mr. Smith said. "If you really make it difficult enough for people to come to New York, they're going to stop coming to New York," he said.

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