Since its burst on to the scene, AirBnB and New York City have been locked in a battle over whether it’s helping or harming renters in the city. New York City’s position, as demonstrated by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, has been that too many of the units rented on the site are being rented by landlords keeping apartments empty for short term rentals, starving a city in need of housing of housing supply. AirBnB’s position has been that there are a few bad apples but that it otherwise helps you, the average New Yorker being crushed by the invisible, conscience-free hand of capitalism. A study by The Real Deal today though, gives more credence to Schneiderman’s argument, as the site found that rents in neighborhoods most popular with AirBnB users would be lower if the units were used as long-term housing instead of short-term housing.
The Real Deal looked at the affect that “commercial” AirBnB listings have on neighborhood rents in eight areas in New York City, including Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. While the definition of a commercial unit varies depending on who’s doing the defining, The Real Deal looked at it from the definition of the state Attorney General’s office (any unit rented for 182 days or more per year) and the one that AirBnB prefers to be used (any unit where the money made in a year is more than the median rent in a neighborhood). They also broke down how many units in a given neighborhood could be counted as commercial using two different data sets that they had access to, resulting in either 30.5% or 57% counting as commercial.
With either definition and data set of a “commercial” listing though, The Real Deal found that enough units were taken off the rental market to drive up the rent by some amount of money. In Williamsburg and Greenpoint, it was anywhere from $16.84/month to $68.66 more expensive per month with the missing units accounted for, while in Bed-Stuy the figure ranged from $12.33/month to $40.56/month. It’s not as if you’d be able to afford a steak dinner every night with the money saved if the hundreds of extra units were back on the rental market, but the site does point out that AirBnB argued that the service only results in $6/month increases across the city. Of course, you could always try to make up the money you’re losing by renting out your bathroom on AirPnP and hoping enough people desperate for the toilet need it.