On Friday, Share Better, a newly-formed coalition of “friends, neighbors, community activists and elected officials” in New York City, publicly called out Airbnb. Detailing a number of nightmare experiences with the home sharing giant, including rentals full of mouse droppings, listings that were under construction, dirty rooms, a poorly-maintained cabin that caught fire, and creepy, predator hosts, Share Better aims to draw attention to the flaws in the Airbnb machine, and wag a finger at the platform for exacerbating the housing crisis in the city.
Share Better argues that illegal hotels, primarily Airbnb, deplete an already scarce supply of affordable housing in New York City and that of the 19,522 Airbnb listings in the city, 64 percent of them covered an entire apartment and were in violation of state law. They point out that more than 200 of the offerings came from just five hosts and that 12 percent of hosts control 30 percent of all the New York City listings. The coalition, which includes Congressman Jerrold Nadler, state senators, assembly members, city council members and dozens of community and housing organizations, plans to “leverage paid media, grassroots organizing, public education, and potential legislative action to counter massive Airbnb spending.” Share Better has $3 million to spend on its message, compared with the estimated $25 million that Airbnb has spent, including more than $500,000 on lobbyists.
In a blog post published on Friday, Max Pomeranc, public policy manager at Airbnb, counters with the argument that some in the hotel industry are doing what they can to stop the sharing economy and that Airbnb “makes New York more affordable for more New Yorkers and makes the economy stronger.” He states that 62 percent of Airbnb hosts in New York say hosting has helped them stay in their homes and that the Airbnb community will generate an estimated $768 million in economic activity in New York in 2014 and support 6,600 jobs. He also writes that the number of Airbnb listings in a city with over 3 million households is too small to do any damage to the housing market.
The truth of this ongoing debate presumably falls somewhere in the middle of the two perspectives: Airbnb does provide a way for well-intentioned people to rent out their homes to other well-intentioned people and the platform is not the only reason there's a housing crisis in New York City. On the other hand, there are people who take advantage of the platform to scam people, evict tenants, and list numerous properties, which contributes to a decline in affordable housing. How the situation will play out remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the home sharing debate is reaching boiling point in New York City.
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