Airbnb looks to improve service amid battle with New York legislators

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Photo Courtesy of Airbnb

Airbnb, a popular home-sharing service, is looking to improve service for both its hosts and it’s customers in the Bronx.

The company has begun supporting Bronx home sharing clubs in an effort to bring hosts together while bettering the service.

Home sharing clubs are groups of hosts who come together to discuss better ways to serve guests, discuss ideas for community outreach and notify Airbnb representatives how they can aid their hosts.

According to Airbnb, there are approximately 500 Bronxites using Airbnb to share their homes.

On July 28, seven hosts in the Bronx held the Bronx’s second home sharing club meeting to share their hosting experiences and encourage hosts who are little newer to home sharing.

Eric Smith, a 41-year resident of the Bronx, has been home sharing for about seven years.

Smith had always recommended Airbnb to others but had been using other home sharing services.

He finally began using Airbnb this year.

Smith said he had previously tried other methods of additional income such as renting out apartments.

He said at one point he was renting to 30 people at once and was having issues collecting rent.

“It’s a heck of a feeling when you come home and there’s thirty people ducking you,” he said with a chuckle.

Smith explained home sharing is another way to get additional income without having to chase people down for rent.

Through the Airbnb app, customers can view a space at which they want to stay and must pay in full before booking the space.

Smith acknowledged that he uses the service for the extra income but he also said he enjoys the feeling of home sharing.

He said he currently has a family from Holland staying at his apartment and “by the second day everybody’s family.”

Like Eric, other Airbnb users are thankful for the extra income, claiming it helps them stay in New York City.

According to Airbnb, as of June 1 the median annual earnings for a Bronx host is $4,280. In addition, Airbnb said that as of June 1 there are 175 Bronx residents renting their entire home through the company and 354 residents renting a private room or shared space.

Airbnb has been in the news lately as New York legislators are moving to put stricter regulations on home sharing.

Currently, it is illegal to rent multi-unit buildings without a present tenant for less than 30-days.

Lawmakers in Albany passed a bill, pushed by Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, that would bring a fine of $7,500 to Airbnb hosts who rent these apartments

The bill would also make it illegal to advertise these apartments on Airbnb.

Lawmakers claim allowing services like Airbnb to go unregulated allows landlords to keep affordable housing off the market and circumvent housing laws.

Rosenthal said when apartment owners rent space through Airbnb that is set aside as affordable housing, it causes an apartment shortage, while at the same time increasing prices of rentals on the market.

According to Josh Meltzer, New York Head of Public Policy for Airbnb, the company feels the bill hurts people who are only sharing the homes they live in and trying to make extra money to afford the NYC cost of living.

“It’s plain and simple – this bill is an attack on tens of thousands of hardworking, middle class New Yorkers – including hundreds of Bronx residents – who share their homes to make ends meet,” said Meltzer. “It is impossible to take seriously arguments to the contrary when it would have been very easy to draft the bill in a way that differentiated between middle class people sharing their permanent home and the commercial operators who run illegal hotels.”

Airbnb representatives say they are working to take down listings which violate New York state law.

Rosenthal acknowledged the effort but said Airbnb could do take down the listings in a more faster and more efficient manner.

She also said the bill is not meant to attack homeowners who are trying to make a little extra cash but it is meant to go after commercial entities who are trying to cheat the affordable housing market.

The assemblywoman’s bill is currently before Governor Cuomo. It was sent to him approximately 20 days ago.

According to New York State law, if the governor does not sign or veto a bill within 30 days, it becomes law.

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