By implementing onerous requirements on Airbnb hosts, New York City is attempting to scapegoat short-term rental (STR) sites for the city’s own failings. Rather than accounting for city policies that continue to drive its housing and hotel room shortage, officials have decided to target the city’s 40,000 active listings, operated by—mostly smalltime—Airbnb hosts. In the end, the city will get neither the housing affordability nor housing supply it purports to be seeking, but it has handed yet another political win to the hotel workers’ unions.
While the city has followed the examples of Dallas, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Boston, the backstory to the passage of NYC’s STR law, which requires STR hosts to register with the city and to be present during the guest’s stay, is particularly egregious.
Consider that in 2010, the city, at the behest of the hotel workers’ union, began its assault on hotels. The goal was to limit the construction of new, generally nonunion, hotels, to increase hotel room prices, which would particularly bolster higher-end union hotels. The city first banned and closed 55 youth hostels, before later imposing stringent requirements on building new hotels. Even the city predicted a hotel room shortage, and indeed not a single hotel permit has been issued since.
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