Airbnb Organizes NY Hosts in Lobbying Effort to Fight Bill
Airbnb is trying to counter the lobbying force of its opponents in the hotel and real estate industries by organizing its 46,000 New York users. Airbnb is pushing back against the Share Better coalition, which includes many city and state politicians, housing groups, and the New York Hotel Trades Council union, and has repeatedly accused Airbnb of reducing the city’s supply of housing. Share Better was among the groups that supported a state bill that levies fines up to $7,500 on New York hosts who advertise illegal listings. The bill has yet to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Airbnb recently launched an ad campaign espousing the site’s benefits to middle-class New Yorkers.
Recently, a group of Airbnb hosts sent a letter to City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez saying that the Share Better is a “front group” for the hotel industry, and is “notably silent when actual housing is being converted into hotels.” Mendez, a Democrat who represents the East Village, is part of the coalition and was targeted because she has criticized the conversion of five apartment buildings in her district into a 13-story boutique hotel, which will lead to the loss of about 10 rent-regulated units. The letter praises Mendez for opposing the hotel conversion, but questions why Share Better is not part of the fight.
A recent report created by the high-tech trade group Internet Association, of which Airbnb is a member, found 773 residential units have been lost in New York City since 2010 because of hotel development. The report also claims 750,000 square feet of space that could have been used for housing was instead developed for hotels.
According to the Internet Association, since 2010 hotels are directly responsible for the removal of 488 housing units in Brooklyn, 270 in Manhattan, and 15 in Queens. It also notes that NYC hotel inventory is up 47 percent over the past decade, and that the projected inventory of 135,000 hotel rooms by 2019 exceeds the current demand. It’s a point not without merit: The occupancy rate in Manhattan fell last year by .8 percent to 86.4 percent, according to hotel research firm STR. And the city’s official tourism bureau counts 124 hotel development projects in the pipeline throughout the city, 72 in Manhattan alone.