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NYC Passes Rule Forcing Airbnb to Disclose Host Information

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  • Posted on: Sep 3 2018

It’s official. New York City has passed a law, 45-0 in a city council vote, which is designed to help enforce existing rules that ban short-term rentals. The new law will require that Airbnb share the names and addresses of hosts in New York City.

[This Blog wrote about the law prior to passage here.]

Not Everyone Agrees

The law has been met with mixed feelings. While people such as Mayor Bill de Blasio support the bill, others like Chris Lehane, head of global policy at Airbnb, find the new policy to be unnecessary, potentially subjecting hosts to violations of their privacy. “This is a bill that really is designed to benefit the hotel industry,” he said in a conference call with reporters. An Airbnb host who has been financially backed by the company itself has accused city officials of retaliation after he spoke out in support of rental homes. He has filed a lawsuit against New York City.

A catalyst for Gentrification or a Homeowner’s Ace?

These opposing views have long existed in the City. New York housing advocates have said that short-term rentals are a major contributor to gentrification and rising rental costs, while Airbnb argues that access to short-term rentals allows homeowners to make additional income and afford their mortgages.

Housing Advocacy

Councilwoman, Carlina Rivera, was responsible for introducing the bill. Prior to becoming a politician, Rivera was a housing advocate, who helped tenants forced out of their apartments due to rising rents. She often heard stories of landlords hoarding apartments and running illegal hotels. She remains focused on creating a fair real estate market. “This is about preserving as much affordable housing and housing stock as possible,” she said.

Rivera has not been the only vocal council member to criticize the company. Council Speaker Corey Johnson has been outspoken about his opposition to Airbnb for years, accusing it of establishing a method for property managers to make money without paying taxes or abiding by safety regulations.

Even the City of New York has worked to tighten the rules surrounding Airbnb and similar sites for a while. Under Mayor de Blasio, the City has strengthened a ban on rentals lasting for less than thirty days.

What Does this Mean for the Future of Airbnb in NYC?

New York City has asked a judge to order Airbnb to comply with a subpoena for information, in line with the recent decision. The City claims that the company has “largely refus[ed] to cooperate,” failing to provide “any records whatsoever.” Airbnb explains that they have yet to comply because the subpoena was too broad, requesting information not relative to the investigation. The company has continued to fight for its customer’s privacy and “will not stand by silently while OSE attempts to game the legal system in order to continue to harass responsible New Yorkers who share their home,” said Airbnb spokesman, Christopher Nulty. If the decision sticks, only time will tell just how much it influences the landscape of the business.

The San Francisco-based company, valued at $31 million, does not believe that this new policy will have much of an effect on its business. “Most of our revenue is really coming for a much, much larger group of cities,” said Lehane, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton. “This is not going to have an impact on us from a broader business perspective.”

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