Mayor de Blasio has signed into law a bill that will crack down on Airbnb’s operations New York City.
The action came just days before the the City Council is slated to vote on a measure that would limit the number of cars driving for Uber and similar companies.
The moves have some concerned about the message the city is sending to its burgeoning tech industry.
“Do I think these two bills alone are going to drive potential entrepreneurs out of New York City? No,” Julie Samuels, executive director of Tech:NYC, an advocacy group for the tech sector, said. “That said, if this is the beginning of a trend, then yeah, that could happen — and that’s why it’s troubling.”
The new law regulating Airbnb will require the company to hand over the names and addresses of its hosts in the city — a move that will likely expose many to fines for listing their entire apartments for stays of fewer than 30 days, which violates state law. The information will be turned over to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, which can levy fines.
But the Council members who support it by a virtual consensus — it passed 45-0 in the 51-member body — say it’s necessary to crack down on illegal hotel operators who are gobbling up much-needed affordable housing.
“Years before I was a member of the Council, I worked as a housing organizer providing services on the Lower East Side. I heard countless stories from tenants and organizers about illegal short-term rentals milking them out of their security and stability of an affordable home,” Councilwoman Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan), the prime sponsor of the bill, said Thursday.
Hizzoner did not offer remarks on the legislation, beyond deeming it one of several he was signing that were about “fairness.”
Airbnb, meanwhile, contends that the Council members are most concerned with protecting the hotel trades industry — from which Airbnb has poached customers, and whose powerful union the Hotel Trades Council was a top backer of Speaker Corey Johnson. It’s also showered other members with donations.
"We are disappointed Mayor de Blasio chose to sign this hotel industry-backed bill instead of defending the needs of middle class New Yorkers who rely on sharing their home to get by,” Airbnb spokesman Josh Meltzer said.
“While the Mayor himself has said regular New Yorkers should not be the target of enforcement, many responsible homeowners are currently facing aggressive, unchecked policing, and are fearful of what will happen under this new legislation.”
Cap the number of cars driving for apps such as Uber
The company said it would seek to create better rules that “distinguish these families from the few bad actors who should feel the full force of the law."
The Council, meanwhile, is set to vote on legislation that would cap the number of cars driving for apps like Uber, Lyft and Via — which have eaten into the customer base of traditional yellow taxis and livery cabs.
“Certainly there is a danger that New York is sending a bad message to the global tech community when it looks like we’re making decisions that favor the status quo rather than thoughtful policy decisions,” Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said.
“I think as we seek to attract Amazon and continue to grow our tech sector, which is the fastest growing industry in our economy, that we risk sending the wrong signal about our commitment to innovation.”
Samuels, with Tech:NYC, argued the business the Council was looking to crack down on won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
“The policy-makers who understand that business models like home-sharing and ride sharing aren’t going anywhere, who understand technology and the tools its develops, are going to create the jobs of the future, and the policy-makers who embrace that, work with the companies, work with the industry will find themselves and the people they represent in much better situations,” she said.
Rivera dismissed the notion that the bills could scare off tech companies and noted Tech:NYC counts home-share companies among its members.
“No tech company has packed up and left any city where similar legislation was passed,” Rivera said. “So I don’t think this is going to dissuade anyone from operating here.”