Airbnb hosts rally for right to share their home

NEW YORK -- The battle over Airbnb continued in midtown Monday. Members of the opposition gathering for a conference at the Intercontinental hotel, while supporters rallied outside.

"Airbnb is live like a local. I'm a local, I get up at 5:30 in the morning and go to work. That's what locals do," said Tom Cayler of the Westside Neighborhood Alliance. "Locals don't party every night throughout the week. That's what tourists do. That's why you stay in a hotel."

Cayler says he's been fighting illegal hotels in Hells Kitchen since 2004, which is why he wanted to be a part of the Share Better conference at the Intercontinental Hotel Monday morning. Global hotel leaders discussed issues like prostitution, affordable housing, and community resources that they say stem from the rise of Airbnb.

"The effect is the same where ever you are when short term rentals do not follow zoning rules, community rules," said Vijay Dandapani of the Hotel Association of New York City.

Meanwhile, outside the hotel, Airbnb hosts made their voices heard.

"It's a real disservice when the hotel industry, which is making record profits, is trying to be the only game in town," said Lee Thomas, a Queens host who started the Home Sharing Association of America.

Many local residents say they've only benefited since they started using the service. One woman, Amy, asked that we only use her first name because she's worried she'd be targeted by the city for speaking out.

"Without Airbnb I would lose my home, I would not be able to keep my home," she said. "It's my main source of income."

But opponents of Airbnb, say hosts like Amy are the exception. They argue the majority of units are apartments that are kept off market by greedy landlords. That, they say, drives up home and rental prices in New York.

"Airbnb didn't come and create an expensive city, Airbnb didn't come and take New York City's real estate market and juice it up, it's always been juiced up," said Kirsten John Foy with the Arc of Justice.

But lawmakers say Airbnb, the hosts, and cities can strike a balance that will mesh with the local quality of life.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, has helped crackdown on hosts that have been using the site illegally.

"There are legal ways to use Airbnb," Johnson says. "If you're someone who has an extra room in your apartment, if you're someone who is in a single family home and you have space, you can use Airbnb in a legal way. The issue is the platform has been illegally used in contravention with what state law has allowed."

With Democrats taking control of Albany, many expect those laws to get a little more strict moving forward.

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