Real Estate

Report: NYC Airbnbs are ‘tourist tenements in the making’

Back to the good old days! via Wikipedia
Back to the good old days! via Wikipedia

We knew it was hiking up our rent, we knew it was hurting the community, but AirBnB rentals might also be super illegal. Like, Depression-era levels of illegal.

As DNAInfo reports, two New York state senators and a senate nominee just released a scathing investigation into everyone’s favorite bad guy Airbnb, entitled “Tourist Tenements in the Making.” The investigation looks into the practice of cramming way, way too many people into a rental that’s clearly only meant for a few bodies. So, if you’re looking for that classic old New York feel, maybe Airbnb is your ticket back to the Roaring Aughts.

According to investigators, State Sen. Jeff Klein and Diane Savino and Democratic Sen. Nominee Marisol Alcantara, there are at least 110 hosts on Airbnb in New York City purporting space for 13 or more guests. Most of these cramped rentals actually say they could fit 16, one claims 32 and the largest chunk of them (46%) are in, you guessed it, Brooklyn (represent!). So if you see 32 French tourists stepping out of your neighbor’s apartment tomorrow morning, it might not be a performance art piece (this time).

As the investigation shows, many of the spaces are charging tourists for stays on air mattresses lined up in what are clearly kitchens, bunk beds in living rooms and what looks like three beds in a laundry room. The report argues that these bloated rentals are unsafe, violate city and state housing law and, as the name implies, hearken back to a time of cramped, dangerous tenement houses. Hence Klein’s rather dramatic terming “rentals of doom,” which, while probably fair and definitely a good band name, feels like a bit of a jab at my own apartment’s Feng Shui.

Putting 16 tourists in a unit sounds like a recipe for a very authentic New York experience, not to mention a great party. After all, isn’t living in New York all about fitting more people in one space than appears physically possible? I, for one, have gotten uncomfortably close to that 13-roommate marker before. I’ve lived in rooms that were never intended to fit beds — I know, because they didn’t — so in a way these spots strike me as perhaps the most Brooklyn Brooklyn rentals. Have they been to Smorgasburg? Have they been to Times Square? Tourists love those sweaty, cramped and overpriced spaces so I have to assume they want a similar vibe in their vacation rental, too.

The Independent Democratic Conference evidently doesn’t think so. In response to the investigation, the IDC is preparing to introduce legislation to tighten regulations on Airbnbs. The laws would extend the Multiple Dwelling Law to specifically include Airbnb listings, limiting how many people could stay in them. But hey, if you think you can fit a lot of people in a laundry room, just imagine how many you could cram into Rough Trade.

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