Public Advocate Letitia James is calling on AirBNB to boot its “illegal hotel kingpins” and blaming the apartment-sharing service for an affordable housing crisis in Bushwick, Greenpoint and other Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Last month, a nationwide survey found that Brooklyn had the least affordable housing of any county in the nation, with 98% of the average family’s wages needed to cover the median home cost. James thinks Airbnb is one of the culprits. “By helping turn a portion of our scarce housing supply into short-term rentals,” she writes in a letter to the company’s co-founder and CEO, “Airbnb and the illegal hotel operators it enables are contributing to the affordable housing crisis.”
According to James, Airbnb has nearly 8,000 units available in Brooklyn, with 2,000 of those in Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Fort Greene. It’s no coincidence that “rents have increased by more than 28 percent from 2006 to 2012” in those neighborhoods, she says. “Airbnb’s rapid growth in neighborhoods, such as these, that have seen an explosion in rents is exacerbating the housing crisis and one of the factors that has unfortunately contributed to Brooklyn being ranked as the least affordable county in the nation,” James writes.
She also points to “a gentrification of communities of color” and bemoans that “long-time residents and local small businesses that can no longer afford the high rent costs are being driven from their neighborhoods, replaced by transient guests and big chain stores.”
The letter, which you can read below, comes on the heels of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s findings that 72 percent of local full-apartment listings on the rental site are illegal. In October, the city launched a lawsuit against the operators of two alleged illegal hotels.
Meawhile, the New York-based Share Better campaign, which has matched Airbnb’s aggressive marketing with of its own, has announced that it’s expanding nationwide, as a group that had been pushing apartment-sharing regulation in San Francisco has changed its name to Share Better SF.