Since Airbnb is technically illegal in New York City, the startup is willing to make some big concessions. Today, the shining star of the sharing economy said it will launch a 24/7 hotline for New Yorker in order to "remove bad actors in our community that are causing a disturbance to their neighbors." Oh, and it thinks Airbnb hosts should pay an "occupancy tax.
Under the headline "Who we are, what we stand for," CEO Brian Chesky says that Airbnb wants to work for "sensible laws that allow New Yorkers to share their space, earn extra income, and pursue their American Dream."
1. We believe regular people renting out their own homes should be able to do so, and we need a new law that makes this clear.
2. Our hosts are not hotels, but we believe that it makes sense for our community to pay occupancy tax, with limited exemptions for those who earn under certain thresholds. We would like to assist New York City in streamlining this process so that it is not onerous.
3. We are eager to work with New York to remove bad actors in our community that are causing a disturbance to their neighbors, and will create a 24/7 Neighbor Hotline where we will service the complaints.
That’s why Airbnb’s apparent olive branch is intriguing: a tax and loose regulatory structure could preserve the benefits of Airbnb while curbing some of the downsides. It’s unclear, however, how the tax would work; would Airbnb simply impose a levy and pass it along to the city? If so, would this do anything to help the people living right beside an Airbnb?
Chesky begins the announcement by mentioning Airbnb's recent victory in getting the New York City Environmental Control Board to reverse a decision that would have made even more of its listings explicitly illegal in New York.
The case centered around Nigel Warren, a local tenant who was fined $2,400 for violating the state's "hotel law." As the Verge noted at the time, Airbnb is using New York as a "model city" for regulatory issues.
Airbnb sent a lawyer to the hearing to argue on Warren’s behalf, the first time the startup has intervened in such a case. New York City, where Airbnb is projected to do $1 billion in sales in 2013, is an important battleground for the startup, which has run into trouble with regulators in some cities. David Hantman, Airbnb’s head of public policy, has said the company would like to make New York a "model city."
In today's post, Chesky doesn't stop at just the American dream, he emphasizes the benevolence of the Airbnb community:
We all agree that illegal hotels are bad for New York, but that is not our community. Our community is made up of thousands of amazing people with kind hearts. When Hurricane Sandy struck in late 2012, our hosts opened 1,400 homes to stranded evacuees. They didn’t provide just a place to stay: they personally connected with victims and offered comfort and support in a time of need.