Carol Robinson, a resident of Brooklyn, has been offering rooms in her home as accommodations through Airbnb for several years. This endeavor has been a valuable source of supplementary income for her, and she enjoys hosting a diverse range of guests including families, artists, and students. However, a recent regulatory change in New York is set to disrupt the short-term rental landscape.
Robinson, who prefers to remain anonymous due to potential consequences, is determined to comply with these new regulations, despite their strict nature. Losing this income stream is simply not an option for her, as she is approaching retirement and has limited financial resources.
Thousands of other New Yorkers are facing the same predicament, as the new rules take effect on September 5. This regulatory shift not only poses a significant obstacle for Airbnb but also highlights potential challenges for the sharing economy as a whole.
Changes in Regulations
One of the primary concerns voiced by the city is the impact of short-term rentals on affordable housing availability. Co-op boards and hotels also express their reservations about such accommodations.
Under the new regulations, hosts can continue to operate if they register with the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) and adhere to specific rules. For instance, renting out an entire apartment or home for less than 30 days is prohibited unless the host remains present during the guests’ stay. Additionally, households may only accommodate up to two paying guests for fewer than 30 days, provided that all guests have unrestricted access to every room and exit within the premises.
These changes effectively hinder short-term rentals for most hosts, significantly reducing the number of active rentals in New York City. Currently, there are over 26,800 active rentals, with 84% of them listed on Airbnb. In comparison, there were nearly 38,000 active rentals in the second quarter of 2020, according to AirDNA.
Although this situation represents a potential 1% loss in annual revenue for Airbnb, it could also lead to increased offerings and opportunities in neighboring communities like Jersey City, Hoboken, and Westchester.
Consequences and Alternative Solutions
Dennis Schaal, the founding editor at Skift, a platform focusing on the travel sector, predicts that Airbnb will essentially be banned in NYC due to the slow assessment of applications by the city.
Despite these challenges, registration for short-term rentals continues, with over 3,250 hosts having submitted applications for registration. The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement has already reviewed hundreds of applications and granted approvals while requesting additional information or corrections for others.
As enforcement actions are set to commence, the office will collaborate with booking platforms to ensure compliance with the city’s verification system and halt unverified transactions. Furthermore, the focus will be on responding to complaints regarding illegal occupancy.
Although some individuals may find ways to circumvent these regulations, the overall impact on short-term rentals is expected to be significant.
Varying Approaches among Cities
New York’s regulatory approach sets it apart from other cities such as Seattle and San Diego, which have managed to implement regulations that strike a compromise between accommodating hosts and addressing concerns. In contrast, the New York rules fail to distinguish between homeowners renting a room and unscrupulous landlords operating multiple units as makeshift hotels through Airbnb. Violators, including Airbnb itself, face substantial fines.
The grassroots organization Restore Homeowner Autonomy & Rights (RHOAR NYC) aims to secure a differentiation for one- and two-family homeowners, allowing them to apply for registration. They argue that these regulations unfairly target small-scale homeowners instead of addressing the underlying housing crisis in a more meaningful way.
Robinson, who has been residing in her Brooklyn home for 35 years, remains committed to advocating for changes to these regulations. She considers herself a progressive individual but believes these specific rules are contradictory and ultimately ineffective in resolving the housing crisis.