The New York State Independent Conference issued a report, Tourist Tenements in the Making. The report concludes,
New York City has long been at the forefront of ensuring that its housing stock is safe for residents. We have instituted laws such as the Multiple Dwelling Law, the Housing Maintenance Code, and the Fire Code to ensure that buildings are constructed to the right standards for their intended uses, and have passed laws to prohibit activities that endanger people’s lives. One such action is turning residential properties into illegal hotels hosting over a dozen guests.
Residential properties are not meant to host dozens of transient guests. The IDC’s investigation found over 100 ads featuring residential spaces for groups of more than a dozen people, some claiming to house over 30 people. This kind of behavior not only creates an inconvenience for neighbors, but creates real dangers to both residents of this city and those guests that may choose housing not knowing that it is an illegal posting, since they saw the ad on Airbnb. We should not wait for a tragedy to strike before taking actions to curb illegal rentals that create dangerous conditions.
It is important that the State government take steps to protect our residents and tourists visiting New York from this kind of irresponsible behavior. As such, the Executive should act and sign into law the recent bill passed by the Legislature that will impose fines on individuals advertising illegal short term rentals and the Legislature should examine additional steps necessary to make sure that illegal short term rentals are handled not only in multi-family buildings but in private homes as well and that hosting websites be made responsible for the content they profit from. (11)
While the sharing economy is here to stay, it is hard to imagine that it will not face some form of increased regulation after reports like these come out. One Airbnb rental highlighted in the report advertises space for 16 people in a two-family house and another claims that it can house 32 people. The pictures in the report tell a thousand words each — bunk beds, beds in the kitchen, air mattresses lined up one next to the other.
This report shows some extreme examples of what can happen when the free market for residential space goes unfettered in a high-cost city. But, as the report notes, the government has a legitimate interest in protecting the health and safety of its residents and visitors. New York first regulated tenements over a hundred years ago. No doubt, they will soon act on this 21st century version of them, hopefully before a Triangle Factory Fire-type event strikes.