Airbnb to the Rescue During New York’s “Scarcity” of Short-Term Rentals

Illegal Hotels When New York City Needs Them most

Credit: USAToday.com

[Alvin Brickman for Metrosetter Wire]

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many of Manhattan’s residents have found themselves displaced with nowhere to go.  Due to New York City’s recent crackdown on “illegal hotel rooms,” city officials claim that there is a dearth of  rentals for less than 30 days when the city’s residents are most in need of them. But Airbnb’s decision to wave all fees in the 20,000 or so rooms in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy indicates that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

New York City Officials Claim Short-Term Rentals Are at Their Capacity

Molly Bonnell, leasing manager for Town Residential’s Financial District office told The Real Deal that the city’s supply of short-term rentals are at their capacity:

“Yes, we are finding that people are in need of furnished short-term rentals, especially if they are in buildings where power is expected to be out beyond Friday. We have been going through a list of furnished short-term rentals, but [we are] finding that the normal corporate-housing companies/short-term furnished companies already are at capacity in their locations with power.”

The City Council’s decision to apply blanket legislation on the short-term rentals industry is having unforeseen consequences. But there’s no indication that the city is considering revising the regulations.

“Because the legislation is a state-law and concerns about unsafe accommodations remain very real, it is unclear whether the city can or will take any action to change enforcement protocols for short-term housing, city officials told The Real Deal.”

How to deal with displaced residents during emergencies is thus another exigency City Councils will have to consider in future formulations of short-term rentals regulations. Because New York City’s increase in fines was bolstered by virulent support from the city’s residents, it is up in the air how they will react if established regulations are allayed.

But these claims of “scarcity” have completely discounted the online ecosystem of short-term housing.

Airbnb to the Rescue With Waved Fees For 20,000 Rooms In Affected Areas

What’s particularly revealing of just how disconnected city officials and the “offline” world are from the largely “online” world of short-term rentals is, first of all, the list of results on Airbnb for “New York, NY.” Molly Bonnell and the City Council claim, in the quotes above, that there is a shortage of short-term rentals in New York City, yet there are 16,201 short-term rentals indexed on Airbnb.com for “New York, NY.” How should we account for the discrepancy?

The mostly likely reasons for this are either sheer ignorance of the online ecosystem for short-term rentals, or the intentional discounting of online listings because of their potential for illegality.

And while online search platforms have been officially ignored, Airbnb have taken action to compensate for this critical insufficiency of “normal corporate housing/short-term furnished companies” by waving all fees for people stranded by the hurricane.

Here’s Airbnb’s official statement:

There are more than 20,000 Airbnb listings available in affected areas. Airbnb is waiving all of our fees for these spaces. We encourage our entire community to help anyone who has been left stranded or in need because of the hurricane.

The fee-free traveling and hosting applies to both guests who book and hosts who accept new bookings that start between October 31 and November 7 in New York City, theHamptonsProvidenceNew Haven, and Atlantic City. (The max trip length is seven nights.)

Bravo, Airbnb.  How opponents of “illegal hotel rooms” and online listing sites respond to this happening will certainly affect how short-term rentals are regulated in the future.

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