By David Z. Morris
June 23, 2018

Airbnb has escalated its long-running battle with lawmakers in New York City, accusing City Council members of being in the pocket of the hotel industry ahead of a crucial vote on the city’s home-sharing enforcement. Airbnb detailed hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial support from hotel groups to Council members in a report released Friday, and is reportedly launching an ad campaign to highlight the findings.

The report tallies hotel industry campaign contributions and other spending on behalf of more than a dozen Council members in 2013 and 2017. It compared those to the earnings of Airbnb hosts in councilmembers’ districts, which outstripped the contributions by large ratios. The report’s rhetoric is harsh, saying “Council members need to cut the puppet strings” of the big hotel industry. According to Politico, Airbnb will also run television ads targeting some lawmakers.

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Airbnb argues that host earnings are beneficial to Airbnb hosts in New York. But both the city and independent critics say Airbnb hurts average New Yorkers by raising rents. That’s because the platform can be used by commercial operators who rent entire apartments rather than spare rooms, taking those units off the residential market.

Some of the donations in Airbnb’s report come from the Hotel Trades Council, a hotel workers’ union. Corey Johnson, who received donations from the Council, said in a statement to Politico that “illegal hotels . . . reduce the supply of desperately needed affordable housing.”

New York’s City Council is nearing a vote on a rule requiring Airbnb to report the names and addresses of hosts. The new rule, which Airbnb opposes, would make it easier to issue large fines against some hosts under a law that makes it illegal to rent an entire apartment in a large complex for less than 30 days. The bill is considered very likely to pass.

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