On January 20, a diverse coalition of elected officials, housing advocates, and tenants rallied against illegal short-term apartment rentals. Illegal hotels pose a grave threat to our city’s already limited stock of affordable housing, encourage landlord harassment, and create building-wide security, safety, and nuisance issues that disrupt the quality of life for tenants and illegal renters alike.
The rally preceded an an eight hour oversight hearing chaired by Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. The Council received testimony from representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), tenants, tenant advocates, representatives of home-sharing websites including Airbnb, elected officials and others on how illegal hotels operate and effect New Yorkers. Full Release
WHAT PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS MEMBERS SAY:
“Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms exacerbate the problem of illegal rentals on the Upper West Side and throughout the City. Over the past five years, Airbnb rentals grew from 900 to 21,000, and according to the NYS Attorney General, 72% of these units are illegal. Until short-term rental platforms accept responsibility for their users who profit from illegal rentals, we have to equip the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement to shut them down, one by one,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.
“With rents rapidly rising but wages remaining stagnant, sharing a spare bedroom can help you earn a little extra money to make ends meet. In reality, the explosive growth of the short-term rental market has created a “sublet economy” that’s seriously hurting tenants and bleeding units from our already scarce affordable housing stock. The testimony we heard today puts a human face on the destructive impacts of illegal hotels. It is abundantly clear that we must provide the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement with the tools and resources it needs to hold these illegal hotel operators accountable,” said Council Member Mark Levine.
“With a housing vacancy rate of only 3.12%, steadily increasing rents, and widespread income stagnation, it goes without saying that New York City is in a housing crisis, fueled by home-sharing websites like Airbnb that account for more than 14,000 illegal rentals in the five boroughs. As Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, it is my hope we work to combat illegal hotels by expanding our Administrations resources, strategies, and further penalizing bad acting landlords,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams.
“Illegal hotels are not just a problem in Manhattan – with the demand for tourism in the outer boroughs, they are becoming an issue there as well. I am primarily concerned with property managers and owners who warehouse apartments and rent them out illegally, taking those units completely off the market for renters who need housing. The businesses that host these listings should not be benefitting from this illegal behavior. We need to find legislative and enforcement solutions that allow for legal sublets while cracking down on illegal hotels and getting much-needed housing back on the rental market,” said Caucus Co-Chair Council Member Antonio Reynoso.
“Right now hundreds of residents in Washington Heights, Harlem and Crown Heights are being pressured by their landlords to vacate in order to make room for these profitable illegal hotels. The residents of our communities are already being pushed out, we don’t need private companies coming in, operating illegally and further pressuring our communities to leave. We must protect those most vulnerable to these pressures, seniors and working class New Yorkers, and crackdown on these illegal activities that have such destructive ripple effects in our communities,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.
“We must not allow working class New Yorkers to be entirely squeezed out of our neighborhoods – but that is exactly what may happen if we do not confront our City’s affordability crisis. Just as important as building new affordable housing is preserving the units we already have. Unfortunately, illegal hotels are endangering our affordable housing stock. I am proud to be part of the Share Better coalition, as neighborhood activists, community and housing groups, elected officials, business and labor come together to stop illegal hotels from proliferating in our neighborhoods,” said Council Member Corey Johnson.
“The safety and affordability of our city must be protected. We need to ensure that AirBnB is not putting profit over people by allowing unsafe or illegal practices that threaten New Yorkers and the affordability of our neighborhoods. Thanks to the proactive leadership of Chair Jumaane Williams and others, the New York City Council can ask the hard questions about what the sharing economy really means for residents,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.
IN THE NEWS
Wall Street Journal: Airbnb Faces Scrutiny From New York City Officials
Christian Science Monitor: Airbnb could pose threat to New York City’s affordable housing
NY Business Journal: Airbnb is brimming with illegal listings, opponents claim