- New York City has subpoenaed Airbnb for information on about 20,000 rental listings because "they refuse to provide the transparency we need to protect New Yorkers' homes," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet.
- The city and the short-term rental company have been engaged in a back-and-forth struggle over sharing user data. Last year, Airbnb sued the city over a law requiring home-sharing businesses to disclose monthly host data, and last month a federal judge granted an injunction against this regulation. The city also would have gathered some information about guests, Gothamist reports.
- "We want to see their listings. We want to see which apartments are being rented out. We want to know what's really going on. We want to make sure there's not illegal hotels... People are worried about the loss of housing, the loss of affordable housing," de Blasio said during an interview with NY1. "Be transparent and we can start to make progress."
De Blasio is primarily using concerns over a shrinking housing supply to justify the city's demands for the user data, and other cities have also voiced concern over short-term rentals cutting into the permanent housing supply during their implementation or exploration of industry regulations. Detroit, New Orleans and Boston are among the cities that have toyed with or enacted regulations. Earlier this year, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker also signed into law short-term rental regulations which included the provision that short-term rental hosts must pay the same excise taxes as hotels.
In addition to housing supply concerns, de Blasio cited other reasons for issuing regulations and collecting the requested user data, including safety. He says citizens who live near units that are constantly being rented out through agencies like Airbnb are worried about their safety with a steady stream of strangers inhabiting those spaces. He also said the city wants to make sure hosts truly are operating as an occasional business and not a full-time business, or else they should register with the city just like any other full-time business.
Airbnb responded to the mayor in a lengthy letter, provided to Smart Cities Dive, to "lay out what we believe is the path forward for home sharing in this City, one for which we have been advocating for the last five years." The letter goes on to explain the One Host, One Home program it has rolled out in New York (as well as San Francisco and Portland, OR), which prohibits hosts from listing more than one address and helps identify and remove "bad actors" in the city. Airbnb says it is now pushing to further regulate the program and make One Host, One Home a law in the city.
"We would welcome the opportunity to work with the City to finally get this legislation across the finish line during this legislative session. In the meantime, we have also offered to work with the City to collaboratively focus enforcement efforts on weeding out large scale commercial operators who seek to circumvent our policies. And while that offer hasn’t yet been accepted, we stand by it," the letter states.
While the data sharing struggle between New York and Airbnb has been ongoing for a while, the timing of this subpoena is not ideal. It comes during the same one-week period in which Amazon announced it would not build half of its new HQ2 in Queens, and Uber sued the city over the driver cap in a law passed last year to regulate ride-hailing services. The three dust-ups in such a short period of time have some people questioning whether New York is treating big businesses unfairly and potentially driving companies away from the city. Airbnb has, in the past, accused the city of such government overreach.