Op-ed | Short-term Airbnb rentals boost tourism and the local economy

Hands give the keys to a room, the customer receives the keys to a holiday home keys in hand
Photo courtesy Getty Images

Throughout the spring of 2020, we could hear sirens blaring outside our windows as more and more of our neighbors were being infected by the virus. During this time of great despair, housing medical professionals was our only shining light.

Our house is near Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, and even during the depths of the pandemic, we were offering our spare room to guests through Airbnb.We were ensuring doctors had a convenient place to stay and giving their families peace of mind that they were safe. While this was a difficult time, I learned so much about the bravery and selflessness of doctors and nurses. I’m very proud that we were able to make such a contribution when we felt otherwise helpless amid the tragedies surrounding us.

My short-term rental helps not only medical professionals, but also patients and their families. They can stay in a warm, comfortable home while receiving medical treatment nearby. This allows patients to stay with loved ones and cook their own favorite meals, maintaining a sense of normalcy during medical procedures that have upended their lives.

I’ve been an Airbnb host for almost three years now in this house where we raised our children and made New York our home. Just as the world has changed for many, hosting short-term renters over the course of the pandemic was a true whirlwind. I’m grateful our city has returned to more normalcy.

Even though the pandemic has subsided, I continue to host health care professionals and patients seeking treatment. While we’ve seen our city come back and cases go way down, there is still a need for people to have access to our neighborhood. And even outside of medical care professionals, housing for visitors is a necessity. This isn’t midtown, we don’t have hotels, and tourists otherwise wouldn’t be able to stay here. People from all over come to visit their relatives and friends; they want to stay close to those they love and Airbnbs are their only option.

And just as our neighborhood has given so much to us, we give right back to it. We encourage all of our guests to visit local stores and restaurants. Our guests are helping the local economy in the Bronx to thrive and we’re proud to show off the amazing family-run establishments in our area.

Being able to rent my home out to visitors has allowed me to keep the lights on. It has provided financial relief to my family and for hundreds of New Yorkers across the five boroughs. With the city growing more expensive by the day and inflation driving the price of goods to an all-time high, hosting is the only way we can continue to afford to live. And I am sure we are not the only New York City family in this position which is why I cannot understand why our city government would prevent working people like myself from making a living.

Last year, the New York City Council passed legislation that would make it nearly impossible for New Yorkers to rent out their homes for short stays.

These new rules as the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) currently proposes, do not make a lot of sense to me or the other people who also host short-term renters. One part of the proposed rules would force us to list our address on a public website, which is hugely concerning for my family’s privacy. Not to mention, this office has a history of harassing innocent homeowners and imposes high fees without much of an explanation.

On Monday, my fellow hosts and I will be testifying on why these rules would be harmful to the local economy, tourism industry and everyday people who are just trying to get by. Given its history, it’s doubtful that OSE will truly hear us out but we must try, both for my sake and for the health care workers and patients who rely on my rental.

I implore anyone who cares about the future of our city to listen and stand with us and not the hotel industry, who are clearly the only party to benefit from such draconian rules.

Tuan Le is an Airbnb host who lives in the Bronx. 

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