September 1, 2016

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New York must protect—not punish—responsible home sharing

By
Matthew Mincieli
Crain’s New York Business

Home sharing is a perfect match for the state of New York, where in many places rents are skyrocketing and the cost of living is high.

That’s why it comes as no surprise that New Yorkers from the Bronx to Buffalo are embracing innovative platforms like Airbnb that allow them to share their homes with visitors and bring in extra dollars to help them pay the bills.

Even more, the home-sharing economy is a boon for local businesses. Guests on average spend 35% of their travel budgets in the neighborhoods where they stay, bringing economic benefits to small businesses well beyond the traditional tourist hot spots.

In New York City, nearly half of Airbnb listings are outside of Manhattan and nearly 9 in 10 are outside of midtown. Altogether, Airbnb contributes $2 billion to the city’s economy annually.

Rather than embracing innovative services like Airbnb, the New York Legislature recently passed a bill that would deal a major blow to the state’s thriving home-sharing community. The misguided legislation would make it illegal for Airbnb users to advertise and rent entire homes for fewer than 30 days, and fine violators up to $7,500.

In theory, the bill would reinforce an existing law that was designed to stop landlords from creating illegal hotels by removing apartments from the permanent rental market and churning them as full-time, short-term rentals.

In reality, the bill would essentially prohibit and penalize millions of New Yorkers throughout the state from using an innovative service that is embraced across the country and around the world.

By passing this bill, everyday New Yorkers who simply want to rent their homes while out of town would be treated like unscrupulous landlords warehousing apartments for illegal uses.

Home-sharing platforms have incredibly low rates of abuse and an overwhelming percentage of the homes listed on these services are the hosts’ primary homes. In New York City, 96% of hosts who share an entire home have only one home listing.

The bill also presents a major threat to New York’s thriving innovation sector.

For decades, New York has been seen as one of the world’s elite innovation hubs. More than 350,000 New Yorkers work in the tech ecosystem, which drives economic growth and innovation.

While most of the country moves forward to develop sensible regulations around home sharing and other sharing-economy services, this bill would send a signal that New York is moving in the wrong direction. Home sharing is a critical portion of the innovation sector, and it is vital that we do not send a message to entrepreneurs that New York is hostile to new technology.

The bill is currently sitting on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk, and he has the option to veto or sign it by the end of the year.

He should veto this anti-home sharing, anti-tenant bill. In doing so, he will send a message to New York’s residents, visitors, small business owners, and entrepreneurs that the state is open for business.

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