The New York State Assembly Housing Committee voted on a bill Tuesday that will make it difficult for New Yorkers to rent out their apartments to guests for short periods of time.
Bill A08704B, also known as The Airbnb Bill, passed in committee, but is still pending a vote on the state assembly floor. If passed, the bill will make it illegal for New Yorkers to advertise rental units for short-term use.
Sponsored by Assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) and supported by Assembly members Annette Robinson and Walter T. Mosley, among others on the Housing Committee, the Airbnb Bill imposes fines on New Yorkers who advertise their apartments as available for home-sharing. First-time offenders would have to pay a $1,000 fine, while second and third-time offenders would face a $3,000 and $7,500 fine respectively.
“What this bill is targeting is people or companies with multiple listings,” said Rosenthal when the bill was first introduced. “There are so many units held by commercial operators, not individual tenants. They are bad actors who horde multiple units, driving up the cost of housing around them and across the city.”
If passed, the bill will virtually blackball Airbnb from doing business across the state– a huge upset for the home sharing company and its users in Central Brooklyn, where the business is thriving. In an email to its supporters on Monday, Airbnb made a plea to Central Brooklyn residents to ask their state legislators to reject the bill, arguing the bill “fails to differentiate between people who occasionally rent out their homes and people who run illegal hotels.”
“Our lawmakers should be looking at ways to help everyday New Yorkers during this time of rising rents and stagnant incomes, not trying to impose fines on them,” wrote an Airbnb executive.
And some Brooklyn residents agree:
“I think that [the Housing Committee] shouldn’t really limit [Airbnb], because it helps people who are traveling,” said Michael Yuen, 23, a student at Brooklyn College. As an occasional user of the home-sharing service, Yuen said, compared to the costs of local hotels, Airbnb was the best option for travelers.
Central Brooklyn resident Paula John, 47, said the decision to use Airbnb should be decided by landlords, not state legislature: “If it’s your building, you can do whatever you want. It’s your place.” However, she does not think that the same freedom should be applied to tenants.
“If you are renting from somebody else, and you want to rent [your apartment] out, I find that the landlord should have a say, because it’s their apartment you’re renting,” said John. “Why should you rent it out to make money?”
However, homeowner Christina Hair, 53, of Crown Heights views Airbnb’s presence in Brooklyn as a double-edged sword, whose power in the borough should be limited. While she admits that she has never used the service, she recalls the experiences of other homeowners near her:
“One woman thought she had one set of people in her house, but it was another set of people,” she said. “There was a shooting. It was just a big mess.” Hair says that she would never consider using Airbnb and supports legislation that provides strict oversight and regulation.
If passed, New York would become the first state to enact such a law.