The Rental Market

Airbnb is in hot water (again). But is it deserved?

By Lucy Cohen Blatter | February 16, 2016 - 8:59AM

Airbnb has been under fire for allegedly encouraging the warehousing of apartment rentals and, as a result, increasing rents for non-Airbnb apartments, too. Now, fresh off the heels of a December Airbnb report claiming that only about 5 percent of Airbnb users in New York City are renting out two or more units, a new independent report claims that the company purged more than 1,000 listings in order to get those statistics.

The report was created by Tom Slee and Murray Cox, who runs a watchdog website called Inside Airbnb. The two claim that Airbnb's "report" was just a PR stunt ... and an untrue one at that.

"A large number of listings that were most likely to be warehoused—illegal listings—were just taken down," Cox tell us. "For most of the year, 92 percent of the host had single listings, but in November, that number shot up to 95." 

Airbnb's report was based on a snapshot of data from November 17.

Cox  says he was alerted to rumors that Airbnb hosts were having their listings removed in mid-November by a NYC-based journalist. He and Slee write code that automates and organizes data on Airbnb every month. This time, through their coding, they found that over 1,000 listings had been removed in the beginning of November.

But Airbnb stands their ground. In an email statement, spokesperson Nick Papas reiterated that "the vast majority of our hosts are everyday people who have just one listing and share their space a few nights a month to help make ends meet." He also noted that, as of February 8th, 94 percent of hosts had just one listing. If Airbnb had taken down listings to affect that November 17 snapshot, wouldn't that number now be higher?

"We would argue that the 94 percent statistic is heading back toward the year-long 92 percent average," says Cox.

Asked what he hopes to achieve by releasing this information, Cox says: "This is just clear evidence that you can't trust Airbnb." The company can't be part of the conversation for making Airbnb work legally in this city, he adds. "It's up to city officials and the public to have conversations about how they're going to regulate Airbnb."

Cox's biggest issue with the idea of landlords renting out more than one apartment, he says, is that it turns residential apartments basically into commercial enterprises. Says Cox: "It's impacting the supply of affordable housing and it's affecting neighbors, too." 


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