Guest Commentary: The Truth about Airbnb, Housing, and New York City

Image credit: Airbnb

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer recently released a report on Airbnb in New York City that is wrong on the facts, wrong on the methodology and wrong in its conclusions.

Comptroller Stringer falsely asserts that middle class New Yorkers who share their space on Airbnb are responsible for the rising cost of housing. He bases this conclusion on an assumption that, “The most basic concept in the field of economics – supply and demand – says that, everything else equal, a reduction in supply will lead to higher prices.”

Except, the Comptroller himself admitted that his analysis did not take into account whether Airbnb listings were actually rented during the study period. Said the Comptroller, “Whether an Airbnb listing was “active” or not is irrelevant.”

The truth is that Airbnb is not having any meaningful impact on housing supply because the vast majority of Airbnb hosts share their primary residence and only have one listing. In fact, the typical New York City host shares their home for just 60 nights a year, far below the 216 nights that someone would have to share a home in order to make as much as from a long-term tenant, according to a recent NYU study.

The Comptroller’s analysis then mistakes correlation for causation, blaming middle-class Airbnb hosts for rent increases that New Yorkers have been facing for decades. Home prices soared by 124% between 1996 and 2006 alone – long before Airbnb was even founded – and the City has had a declared housing emergency since the end of World War II.

It’s also worth noting that the Comptroller starts the analysis in 2009– the depth of the Recession– and ends it in 2016– prior to a long-awaited increase in rental supply. This obscures a simple fact: in many neighborhoods, rents in New York are actually going down. For example, the average 1-bedroom in Williamsburg in January 2011 cost $2,979 a month. By March 2018, the figure was $2,947, a decrease during the period of Airbnb’s greatest growth in New York City.

This report also ignores the benefits of Airbnb in New York. More than 53,000 Airbnb hosts in New York welcomed 2.6 million guests last year alone, with the typical host bringing in more than $6,700 from sharing their home a couple nights a month — helping them to make ends meet. 77% of City hosts say the extra income helped them stay in their home, with 28 percent of hosts reporting that home sharing has helped them avoid eviction and 18 percent saying they avoided foreclosure.

Airbnb isn’t the only one to have raised concerns. AirDNA — the independent company cited by the Comptroller as the source of the data used in his analysis — improperly published data and failed to “contact AirDNA to ask for guidance or our professional expertise on how to read the data, leading to several crucial errors in his interpretation of the numbers.”

Despite this flawed report, we remain hopeful that we can work together on meaningful solutions for all New Yorkers. We hope Comptroller Stringer will retract this inaccurate report and be transparent with the facts so that we can seriously confront the real problems that plague New York City’s housing market.


To read the NYC Comptroller’s response to this commentary, click here.


By: Josh Meltzer (Josh is the New York Head of Public Policy for Airbnb.)


2 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: The Truth about Airbnb, Housing, and New York City

  1. “..because the vast majority of Airbnb hosts share their primary residence and only have one listing”. I am sure Mr. Meltzer also agrees with the Mayor’s new policy of decriminalizing marijuana as he seems to be ingesting more than his share of it.

  2. Meltzer’s commentary is a free advertorial for an exploitive neoliberal industry which displaces tenants. When did NYLS get in the business of logrolling with industry?

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