For many visiting the Big Apple, finding a place to stay has become rotten to the core.
New York City recently passed rules prohibiting short-term rentals in apartments, virtually decimating the once-thriving Airbnb market. In response to this legislation, approximately 80% of Airbnb units in NYC have been taken off the site. Meanwhile, hotel prices have surged since COVID-19, and their locations in highly desirable spots such as Brooklyn are less than ideal.
So what are intrepid travelers doing?
“People are going underground,” Lisa Grossman, a spokesperson for Restore Homeowner Autonomy and Rights (RHOAR) told Wired.
In the city that never sleeps, hosts have awoken to the practice of listing their properties in sneaky ways. Alternative resources, such as WhatsApp, Signal, Facebook groups, and Craigslist, are now brimming with short-term rentals that look and sound a lot like Airbnb’s—but are illegal, according to a report in Curbed.
The response is a simple lesson in supply and demand. New York City is among the most popular cities on Airbnb in the world, with 72% of Airbnb hosts using their revenue to remain in their homes. Hosts need to find that money somewhere else, and renters need to find a place to sleep. Some hosts have switched to long-term rentals, which account for 94% of the city’s listings. But most have created a shadowy Airbnb-like haven, sporting familiar amenities and cleaning fees.
Gothamist reports that some former Airbnb hosts aren’t even trying to hide their intentions. One ad recently read:
“Due to the ban on short-term rentals by NYC — I am now offering this short-term rental via other avenues such as Craigslist. “I have consistently been a superhost on Airbnb, and currently have an overall rating of 4.93.”
The Black Market Comes with Risks
Despite the appeal of these shadow listings, they come with significant caveats. Without the safety net of Airbnb, customers must rely on Venmo payments to unidentified hosts, who may not be on the straight and narrow. These unregulated listings also lack the guest reviews and all protections that provide peace of mind on platforms like Airbnb.
Some have found solace in services like Houfy, a platform offering a smidgen of the Airbnb experience, including customer reviews. But Houfy doesn’t have verified payment methods.
What This Means for the Future
The strict New York City rental rules were initially passed to alleviate the housing strain on New Yorkers grappling with high rents and shortages. Officials hope the new policy will force property owners to rent those homes to residents instead of visitors. However, dissenting Airbnb hosts argue that the regulation deprives them of a flexible supplementary income without significantly addressing the housing supply crisis. The result has been chaotic.
For its part, Airbnb seems intent on making it anywhere but New York, New York. CEO Brian Chesky recently said the company is now focusing on Paris, the home to the 2024 Summer Olympics.
“I’m saddened; I’m disappointed,” Chesky said at an event hosted by Skift about Airbnb’s dealings in New York. “Unfortunately, New York is no longer leading the way—it’s probably a cautionary tale.”