City Council Proposes Legislation that Would Legalize Hostels
Councilwoman Margaret Chin and Councilman Mark Gjonaj recently proposed legislation that would legalize hostels throughout New York City. Hostels offer communal lodgings often sought by younger travelers looking for a cheap place to stay. Lawmakers passed a law in 2010 aimed at illegal hotel rentals, but the regulations ended up restricting hostels as well. Hostels never fell under clear definitions in the city’s building codes; before the ban, they were subject to the same regulations as apartments. The changing regulatory landscape left a very limited number of hostels in the city. The proposed legislation is intended to curb illegal Airbnb rentals and bolster alternatives for tourists such as hostels.
The proposed legislation also would create a new “Office for Licensed Hotels” that operates within the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs. According to the legislative summary, it would “establish a licensing scheme and regulations for constructing and operating such hostels.” The office would handle complaints and enforce safety standards. The bill defines a hostel as any building with over 70 percent of its rooms identified as hostel units. A similar bill was introduced in 2015 but failed to make it to a council vote.