Activists, officials rally against Air BnB

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:15

Elected officials and community groups converged at City Hall to demand better regulation of illegal hotels

Affordable housing advocates, community groups and elected officials rallied last week against the apartment sharing startup Airbnb, which they claim is violating state law and contributing to New York's illegal hotel problem.

The rally was a kickoff to the coalition's anti-Airbnb campaign called #ShareBetter, which will "leverage paid media, grassroots organizing, public education, and potential legislative action to counter massive Airbnb spending, and prevent the illegal hotel industry from continuing to violate state law and eliminate scarce affordable housing."

Airbnb made headlines some months ago after being subpoenaed by the State Attorney General. The subpoena came as a result of a report from the AG's office which found 64 percent of over 19,000 listings examined violated the 2010 illegal hotel law. The law prohibits the subletting of an apartment for less than 30 days unless the owner is present during the rental. Airbnb successfully countered the subpoena, narrowing its scope, and has since mounted a considerable advertising and lobbying campaign to be allowed to operate in the city.

The AG's office claim websites like Airbnb enable New Yorkers to violate state housing law and operate illegal hotels. Furthermore, says the AG's office, the company does not adequately inform their customers of the risks of using the service.

"Illegal hotels are using third party operators like Airbnb to unlawfully convert residential units into more lucrative short-term rentals, exacerbating New York's housing crisis by depleting an already scarce supply of affordable housing," wrote the #ShareBetter coalition in a press release. "Airbnb is by far the most egregious enabler of illegal hotels that have plagued New York City for more than a decade, and is currently under investigation by the state Attorney General for violating the law."

State Senator Liz Krueger, who wrote and passed the illegal hotel bill in 2010, said, "more affordable, available housing is New York City's greatest need, and illegal hotels exacerbate the crisis. Some companies ? Airbnb front and center among them - are ignoring our laws at the same time as they spend millions of dollars arguing that we need to change or scrap them, endangering residents and New York City's housing stock by encouraging illegal short-term rentals of whole apartments."

Dozens of city and state officials have signed onto the #ShareBetter cause, including Public Advocate Letitia James, Borough President Gale Brewer, and a slew of State Senators, State Assembly members and city council members, as well as over two dozen community groups.