By Katie Honan 

Apartments rented through Airbnb Inc. and other home-sharing sites would have to be registered with New York City under a city council bill introduced Wednesday.

City Councilman Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, said the bill would reduce the number of illegal short-term rentals and increase the stock of permanent housing in the city. Mr. Kallos said the legislation would also help the hotel industry, which saw occupancy rates decline because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Currently, it is illegal to rent an entire apartment in a building with three or more units for fewer than 30 days. However, enforcement of the law is largely driven by complaints from neighbors. The Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement handles investigations into illegal rentals in the city.

The bill would prevent thousands of illegal short-term rentals from getting on Airbnb and other home-sharing sites, Mr. Kallos said.

"This legislation will mean that registrants, through the registration process, will learn whether or not they can even be hosts," he said in an interview.

A spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is unclear when the city council will vote on the bill.

Alex Dagg, the northeast policy director for Airbnb, said in a statement Wednesday that it was "disappointing" to see legislation meant to limit tourism at a crucial time in the city.

"For years, Airbnb guests have played an important role driving tourism spending in neighborhoods outside of central Manhattan and we remain ready and willing to partner with State and City officials to regulate home sharing across all five boroughs in a responsible and thoughtful way," Ms. Dagg said.

Officials for the home-sharing site said a study released last week found that Airbnb guests spent billions of dollars in New York City and supported 17,000 jobs in 2019.

A representative for short-term-rental site Vrbo didn't respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Kallos, who is running for Manhattan borough president, said there were more than 37,000 short-term rental listings in the city as of February and around 40,000 available hotel rooms.

Under the bill, any listing would be given a registration number that would be listed on the rental platform. It would require that the host be the lawful occupant of the unit and be present during any rental period, which prohibits the rental of entire homes or apartments, Mr. Kallos said.

Vacation hot spots such as East Hampton in New York's eastern Long Island have a similar registration program for rentals.

The city would be required to maintain an electronic system that short-term rental sites could use to verify that a unit has been registered.

Booking sites that don't use the electronic check could face civil penalties into the thousands of dollars, according to the bill.

The bill is the latest attempt by city officials to rein in the multibillion-dollar short-term rental industry, which has been the subject of legal challenges.

The council passed a bill in 2018 that required Airbnb to disclose the names and addresses of its hosts to the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement.

Airbnb said last year that it would dismiss its lawsuit against the city on information-sharing on short-term rentals, and the city agreed to collect less data.

The city's hospitality industry is looking to rebound from Covid-19, which hit dining and hotels especially hard. Despite the challenges, this year the city is expected to add 78 new hotels with more than 13,000 combined rooms, according to data firm STR.

Hotel occupancy for New York was 53.8% for the week ending May 1, which was slightly up compared with the previous week, according to STR. Hotel occupancy was 89.8% during the same time in 2019.

Write to Katie Honan at Katie.Honan@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 12, 2021 19:07 ET (23:07 GMT)

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