City Comptroller Scott Stringer is pushing back against critics of his report, “The Impact of Airbnb on NYC Rents,” which was issued earlier this month, and concluded (among other allegations) that residents of Lower Manhattan who lease (rather than own) their apartments are collectively paying more than $49 million per year in extra rent as a result of price pressures caused the online “home-sharing” marketplace and hospitality service that brokers short-term lodging in exchange for a percentage of the fee charged to the guest by the owner. (For the City as a whole, Mr. Stringer concluded that New York City renters in the aggregate are paying an additional $616 million in annual rent as a result of the growth in Airbnb listings.)
Within days, Airbnb had launched a political counteroffensive, airing television commercials that called Mr. Stringer’s analysis, “a false report” and rhetorically asked that, “instead of falsely attacking New Yorkers trying to make ends meet, why not work with our community to try to help keep people in their homes?”
Anti-Airbnb factions quickly responded, with ShareBetter.org (a group funded, in part, by the hotel industry, which dreads the competitive threat posed by the San Francisco-based apartment-share firm) paying for tens of thousands of robo-calls, which featured Mr. Stringer’s voice, defending the report. These were followed by mass mailings to areas of the City where Airbnb are most common — among them, Lower Manhattan.
This map, from the Airbnb website, shows 18 overnight apartment rentals recently offered in Battery Park City. State and City government officials argue that such offerings are, in almost all cases, illegal.
Also weighing in was AirDNA, an online data analysis site that describes itself as “an advocate of short-term rentals,” from which much of the statistical evidence cited in the Comptroller’s report was drawn. The company disavowed many of the findings in Mr. Stringer’s report.
Last Monday, Josh Meltzer (the New York Head of Public Policy for Airbnb) posted an op-ed piece on the CityLandNYC.org website (which is produced by New York Law School), asserting, “the truth is that Airbnb is not having any meaningful impact on housing supply because the vast majority of Airbnb hosts share their primary residence and only have one listing. In fact, the typical New York City host shares their home for just 60 nights a year, far below the 216 nights that someone would have to share a home in order to make as much as from a long-term tenant.”
Mr. Meltzer continued, “the Comptroller’s analysis then mistakes correlation for causation, blaming middle-class Airbnb hosts for rent increases that New Yorkers have been facing for decades. Home prices soared by 124 percent between 1996 and 2006 alone — long before Airbnb was even founded — and the City has had a declared housing emergency since the end of World War II.”
This apartment in the Riverhouse condominium was recently
being offered for $720 per night on Airbnb.
He further argued, “this report also ignores the benefits of Airbnb in New York. More than 53,000 Airbnb hosts in New York welcomed 2.6 million guests last year alone, with the typical host bringing in more than $6,700 from sharing their home a couple nights a month — helping them to make ends meet.”
Two days later, Mr. Stringer replied with a City Land op-ed of his own, which began, “our report offered a sober, independent analysis of how Airbnb’s growing presence in many of our neighborhoods has served to push rents up by increasing demand for housing. Like other analyses that have studied ‘the Airbnb effect’ on housing markets around the world, ours confirmed that more Airbnb listings did contribute to rising rents in New York City.”
He continued, “Airbnb essentially claimed it’s a coincidence that their listings and rental costs are on the rise at the same time — but our carefully designed study shows otherwise, and finds that Airbnb listings contributed to 9.2 percent of the overall increase in rents between 2009 and 2016.” He added that, “what mattered in our analysis was the concentration of Airbnb listings in a neighborhood. A higher concentration of Airbnb listings would tend to push rents higher for any number of reasons, including constrained supply.”
Mr. Stringer further argued, “if Airbnb was genuine in its concern for New York City, it would do what every editorial board in the City has already urged it to do: Provide the City with the raw data necessary to weed out illegal postings. We support New Yorkers who use the website within the confines of the law, but right now it’s impossible for anyone — except Airbnb — to distinguish between legal hosts and the few bad actors who are converting once-affordable buildings into illegal hotels.”
He concluded, “here’s my message to Airbnb: I stand by our work 100 percent, and you can be assured our office will continue to examine any and all factors that make it harder for New Yorkers to live and thrive here — no matter how many high-priced lobbyists you send our way.”