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Housing

Brewer calls on City Hall to reject Airbnb’s business model

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer is calling on City Hall to reject Airbnb’s business model and fight its efforts to legalize the now illegal use of apartments for commercial use.

In a letter to Mayor de Blasio, Brewer warns that using residences as unregulated hotels risks further reducing the number of affordable and rent-regulated apartments in the City – right when they are most needed. The practice also creates unsafe conditions for the renters, neighbors, and visitors, she adds.

“The Administration must not jettison the tenant protections embodied in the current laws and regulations or accept payment on illegal activity that violates tenants’ rights,” Brewer writes. “In addition to the dangers and nuisances posed by Airbnb’s business model, the illegal hotel industry keeps substantial numbers of affordable housing units off the market. Many tenants, seeking additional income, avail themselves of Airbnb’s services and put themselves at risk of eviction.”

The full text of her letter is below.

________________

Hon. Bill de Blasio
Mayor
City Hall
New York, New York 10007

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

I write to express my concern about the ever-growing presence and efforts of the illegal hotel industry. This multi-million dollar business flouts our state and city laws and regulations and creates fire and safety hazards in thousands of residential buildings. I am asking that you oppose the illegal hotel industry’s legislation to gut the protections of New York City residents and the industry’s efforts to collect taxes on illegal activity.

As you are well aware, over the past few years, alongside tenants, advocates, my fellow electeds and City agencies, I have fought this industry in the courts as well as through legislation and enforcement efforts. I understand that members of this industry, specifically Airbnb – now valued at $10 billion – have relaunched their efforts to roll back the protective statutes.  Specifically, it seeks to repeal the 2010 legislation which clarified the definition of “permanent residence”. Bills have already been introduced in Albany (A07848/S05039, A5637/S5637, and S5433) seeking to legalize the now illegal use of apartments, including affordable, rent-regulated apartments for commercial hotel use.

In the face of the State Attorney General’s intense investigation and subpoena of their records, Airbnb has recently revealed another strategy: to begin collecting hotel taxes on the transient use of residential apartments. They claim that this revenue will be sufficient to fund the Administration’s plans for the creation of new affordable housing.

The Administration must not jettison the tenant protections embodied in the current laws and regulations or accept payment on illegal activity that violates tenants’ rights. They represent not only important health and safety protections, but the recognition that residential living is qualitatively different from hotel living. In our city of apartment-dwellers “one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor,” and we share our lobbies, hallways and elevators with our neighbors. Hotel occupancy, where public areas of a building are in fact “public” and populated by transient strangers, is a very different way of living. New Yorkers who have chosen, and by their leases contracted, to live in residential buildings have the right to quiet enjoyment of that condition, and the protection of the laws that define such housing.

In addition to the dangers and nuisances posed by Airbnb’s business model, the illegal hotel industry keeps substantial numbers of affordable housing units off the market. Many tenants, seeking additional income, avail themselves of Airbnb’s services and put themselves at risk of eviction.

I look forward to hearing from your office soon.

Sincerely,

Gale A. Brewer