Nov. 19, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is working on legislation that would penalize New Yorkers who exploit their subsidized apartments for profit on Airbnb, his office announced Thursday.
The announcement follows an LIC Post report on multiple residents at the affordable Hunters Point South development who were renting out their tax-subsidized homes for as much as $500 per night.
Van Bramer’s legislation would establish penalties for renters who “are found guilty of taking advantage of rent stabilized and/or rent controlled units for profit as illegal hotels on sites like Airbnb,” his office said.
The Councilman also wants the City to respond to Airbnb abuse at Hunters Point South and other instances in rent regulated/controlled buildings.
He has requested an investigation into illegal hotels in rent regulated and rent stabilized buildings from the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, as well as hearings at the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings specifically focused on the proliferation of Airbnb in these buildings.
State law already prohibits tenants in apartment buildings with three or more units from renting out to transient visitors for less than 30 days. City law sets fines of $1,600 and up for illegal hotels in residential apartments; Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal has introduced legislation to increase these penalties.
“Considering all of the hard work that it took to build affordable housing at Hunter’s Point South Living in Long Island City, it’s appalling that tenants are renting out apartments for upwards of $500 per night on Airbnb,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “More than 90,000 people applied for just over 900 apartments in this development, and now Airbnb is providing a platform that turns rental units into illegal hotels. Airbnb should be ashamed of itself for allowing this to happen.”
As the LIC Post reported on Tuesday, tenants at Hunters Point South had listed their apartments on Airbnb for prices ranging from $150 to $500 per night.
The rent for a studio apartment for moderate income earners in the development ranges from $1,561-$1997, a one bedroom from $1,965-2,509, and a two-bedroom $2,366-$3,300. For low-income earners the rent is even less. These tax-subsidized affordable apartments were highly sought after, with more than 92,700 people applying for the 925 units available.
Related Companies, which developed Hunters Point South, said Monday that tenants in affordable housing complexes who use Airbnb are putting themselves at risk of being thrown out. Related sent out a notice to its tenants of Hunters Point South Tuesday notifying them that this was cause for their lease to be terminated.
“This city is in the midst of a serious housing crisis, and there are many of us who are working diligently to use all available tools to create affordable housing,” Van Bramer said. “It is to the detriment of everything we attempt to accomplish for everyday New Yorkers when Airbnb refused to play by the rules just to make a quick buck.”
The Hunters Point South Airbnb listings detailed in the LIC Post report were subsequently taken down.
When asked for comment on this story, an Airbnb spokesperson said simply, “we have no listings in the building.”
The spokesperson did not respond to follow up questions.