After Gov. Cuomo signed legislation creating steep fines for Airbnb users who violate local housing laws, the company filed a suit in federal court which said that the legislation will cause them “irreparable harm.”
“In typical fashion, Albany back-room dealing rewarded a special interest — the price-gouging hotel industry — and ignored the voices of tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” Airbnb Head of New York Public Policy Josh Meltzer said in a prepared statement. “A majority of New Yorkers have embraced home sharing, and we will continue to fight for a smart policy solution that works for the people, not the powerful. We are filing a lawsuit in New York this afternoon.”
The suit against the bill, which bans the advertising of apartment rentals for less than 30 days, was filed last Friday against the City of New York, Mayor de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The company has also requested a formal injunction and a temporary restraining order against the law.
Renting class A multiple dwellings for less than 30 days was already illegal under a law passed by the state legislature.
Those who advertise units on the website could be fined up to $7,500 by authorities because of the bill.
The legislation is not unpopular with everyone, though.
“Airbnb is problematic on a few levels,” Queens Tourism Council Director Rob McKay said in an emailed statement to the Chronicle. “First of all, it encourages commercial activity in residential zones. Second, it avoids safety regulations, taxes, and other proper business practices. Third, it promotes absentee landlordism. Please remember the double shooting at an Airbnb-rented property in Bayside last year. Imagine if a neighbor had been hit by a stray bullet. This is a legal time bomb.”
The hotel industry, its unions and affordable housing advocates have fought against Airbnb and have warmly received the bill signed by Cuomo.
“This law will help to keep housing available and affordable for thousands of hardworking New Yorkers and their families,” Austin Shafran of Share Better, a coalition of elected officials, affordable housing advocates and hotel worker unions, said in an emailed statement. “Airbnb has revolutionized the illegal hotel industry, making it easier than ever for illegal hotel operators to drive up housing costs and steal affordable housing from our communities.”
According to land use expert Paul Graziano, the legislation is “a good start.”
“Airbnb is essentially an unregulated situation that’s created all sorts of problems especially in New York City,” he said. “It hasn’t been healthy for the lower density neighborhoods.”
“If the business is taken away from the hotels over here, it cannot be good for Downtown Flushing,” Flushing BID Manager Dian Yu said.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), a co-sponsor of the bill in Albany’s upper chamber, was pleased that Cuomo signed the legislation.
“I think Airbnb is a nice idea but we have to regulate it and obviously in my Senate district, it’s caused a number of problems where people are in my opinion illegally renting homes,” Avella said.
According to state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), a supporter of the bill, the legislation is not the last related to Airbnb that the state Legislature will see.
“We will certainly monitor it as it gets implemented and rolled out,” Addabbo said. “Many times, we amend legislation, we introduce new legislation to correct an unforeseeable side effect. This isn’t the last piece of legislation. We’ll continue to monitor this situation.”