New York City Council Bill Toughens Airbnb Regulations
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
"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
Booking sites that don't use the electronic check could face
civil penalties into the thousands of dollars, according to the
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
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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