Airbnb Makes Its Case After NY Slams Door on Innovation

Since 1883, Emma Lazarus’ epic poem, “The New Colossus,” has been seared in bronze at the base of the Statue of Liberty. For generations, these words have embodied the spirit of New York-- with Liberty’s torch and the golden door of opportunity beckoning the “tired, huddled” masses of the world to a magical city on the Hudson.

These values-- openness, diversity, and a belief in limitless potential-- have helped make the Empire State one of the most dynamic, inventive economies the world has ever known.

Unfortunately, recent actions taken by the New York State Legislature cast a shadow on this proud legacy. Indeed, even as New York seeks to broaden its economy beyond the traditional sectors of finance, insurance, and real estate, the state continues to insulate incumbent industries from competition instead of embracing innovative tech companies.

Just last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an anti-home sharing bill that imposes fines of up to $7,500 on middle class New Yorkers who advertise their own home for short term rentals on platforms like Airbnb.

This time, it was the powerful hotel lobby who pushed to preserve their ability to squeeze every last dollar from travelers coming to the Big Apple. As the CEO of LaSalle hotels told reporters on a conference call earlier this month, the new law could curtail Airbnb listings “which should be a big boost in the arm for the business, certainly in terms of the pricing.”

It’s bad enough that the new law is designed to boost hotel profits. What’s even worse is that it will hurt the tens of thousands of middle class New Yorkers who rely on home sharing to make ends meet.

In New York City alone, nearly 35,000 hosts welcomed over 1.4 million guests last year, with the typical host earning about $5,000 in supplemental income by sharing their space for fewer than four nights a month. 78% of hosts in New York earn low, moderate, or middle incomes and 72% of hosts use the money they earn sharing their space to stay in their homes.

New York is known for constantly building the future, reaching for taller heights, greater opportunity, and stronger neighborhoods. 21st century home sharing is part of that future: a way for middle class New Yorkers to turn their biggest expense-- their home-- into an asset, while bringing the power of the tourist economy to neighborhoods well beyond Midtown Manhattan.

The new law undermines this opportunity at a time when states across the country and cities around the world are embracing the benefits of the innovation economy. In the last year alone, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Vermont have entered agreements that allow Airbnb to collect and remit lodging taxes, while cities from Jersey City to Philadelphia have crafted comprehensive systems to foster responsible home sharing in their communities. In fact, the same week that Governor Cuomo signed the New York bill into law, Sydney, Australia and New Orleans, Louisiana both passed laws that embrace responsible home sharing in their cities.

Despite this new law, Airbnb will continue to do its part to ensure that home sharing in the five boroughs is done responsibly. As of November 1, Airbnb hosts are limited to a single home listing in New York City, thwarting commercial operators who threaten to take housing off the market. Moreover, every listing on our platform is covered by a $1 million insurance policy and our new Neighbors tool provides all New Yorkers with a way to contact Airbnb 24/7 when issues arise.

We look forward to working with lawmakers and community leaders on a comprehensive approach to home sharing in the Big Apple, one that ensures that the Golden Door of opportunity remains open for the next generation of New Yorkers.

Josh Meltzer is the Head of New York Public Policy for Airbnb