July 8, 2016
by Murray Cox
Yesterday, Airbnb in usual form, made lemonade out of lemons in announcing that it has purged 2,233 listings belonging to hosts with multiple entire home listings.
The sour taste in our mouths is that they existed in the first place (displacing New Yorkers while making a disparate amount of revenue for Airbnb); and that many of the listings were purged quietly in November of last year, immediately before a farcical data release which pretended those listings never existed.
Fast forward six months, and Airbnb has re-written that history, created a slogan - "One Host, One Home: New York City", and now tries to make us believe that the community that it has thrown under the bus, are the only bad apples in its community.
It's true that Airbnb has removed these listings. They give us an entire report hyper-analyzing the purged community and console us that the attack on our residential communities is over.
Can we thank Airbnb and sleep tight that our building is no longer going to be invaded by tourists, or the rental or home that we're trying to find to live in, will still be available to New Yorkers?
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
It turns out that Airbnb's business model incentivizes commercial use, regardless of whether it is one host that permanently rents multiple homes, or many hosts that permanently rent one entire home
A quick look at estimated occupancy rates for Entire Home rentals in New York City (as at July 2, 2016) shows us that more than 6,000 entire homes are being rented for more than half the year, and most likely are no longer available on the rental or owner-occupied housing markets.
These numbers are consistent with a study released by housing advocates Housing Conservation Coordinators and MFY Legal Services last week, which found that "Airbnb rentals are having a disastrous impact on NYC’s housing market and significantly contributing to the decrease in affordable units."
Airbnb's report mentions occupancy rates - but they only disclose a median value (43 nights for NYC Entire Home rentals). Looking at the distribution of occupancy rates amongst entire home listings, it's clear why. A median rate hides the impact of the listings with a very high occupancy rate, and the large number of listings with only a few bookings skew the median to the left. Even the average occupancy, which is 113 nights, a number that Airbnb could have easily have provided, shows concerning behaviour.
Rather than thanking Airbnb, it now appears that Airbnb's strategy was to distract us from the thousands of illegal single Entire Home rentals - rented out permanently without the "host" present, at the same time they are requesting Governor Cuomo veto the recently passed Airbnb advertising law which makes it illegal to rent an apartment that violates New York State's multiple-dwelling ban on unhosted rentals in most apartment buildings.
Based on the data, that new law sounds like a good idea.
The irony of Airbnb's new found self selective, regulatory conscience, is that they only practice it in cities where they are under intense scrutiny
The irony of Airbnb's new found self selective, regulatory conscience, is that they only practice it in cities where they are under intense scrutiny by housing advocates, hospitality workers, journalists, elected officials and city enforcement.
A survey across U.S. cities of the percentage of Entire Home listings that belong to hosts with more than one Entire Home, reveals that only in New York City, Oakland and San Francisco, is this community arguably under control. In all other cities, Airbnb allows them to operate at will.
To access the Inside Airbnb data used in this report, download it here for your own analysis.