Airbnb Battles Haters in D.C. Over Affordable Housing

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Is Airbnb hurting or helping D.C.?

DC Working Families Senior Advisor Valerie Ervin and Airbnb Global Policy Head and President Clinton's former aide Chris Lehane on whether Airbnb is hurting or helping Washington D.C.'s real estate market.

An anti-Airbnb television ad has sparked a wild battle between the San Francisco-based home-sharing platform and a  grassroots political organization.

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Share Better D.C., a coalition that includes politicians and the hotel industry, released an ad depicting a woman who describes herself as a long-time Washington D.C. resident, upset at the real estate landlords who are purchasing low-income housing and renting them out on the home-sharing site.

In an interview with FOX Business Network’s Liz Claman, D.C. Working Families Senior Advisor Valerie Ervin explained the problems renters and residents are facing.

“What we’ve seen in D.C. and other markets like D.C. is that the commercialization of whole buildings and more than one home is actually having an impact on the ability for D.C. residents to remain in their homes and have it be affordable,” she said.

The ad hit the airwaves ahead of a hearing Wednesday to debate a plan that would impose limits on the way property owners in the nation’s capital can profit from Airbnb.

Airbnb’s head of Global Policy Chris Lehane said Share Better is running a “duplicitous” and “deceptive” ad because the woman featured is an actress who lives in New York City and not in the Southeast part of D.C. as suggested. Lehane also noted that the political organization is hurting hundreds of middle-class working families who rely on making their homes available as hosts to earn a living.

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“I am just very surprised that someone who is representing working families is actually aligning themselves with the hotel industry against everyday people,” Lehane said.

Ervin said the home-sharing company is buying up low-income buildings and leasing out the rooms.

“Airbnb is coming into the city and they are buying up entire buildings, for example, rent control buildings which were put there for home owners who are having trouble affording a home, she said.

Lehane refuted Ervin’s claims saying Airbnb is very transparent in how it conducts its business. 

“We are a platform that is helping everyday people use their house to make ends meet,” he said.

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Additionally a company spokesperson tells FOX Business, “We don't own the buildings where we have listings. This is a fundamental misstatement of our business model.”

*Updated to reflect additional Airbnb comment.

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