Illegal hotels are, by definition, illegal. But zoning be damned?and because of loopholes and a general lack of enforcement?we've seen a major boom in apartments being rented out for short-term stays, mostly via online marketplaces like AirBnB and Craigslist. It's profitable for developers and landlords, and annoying for full-time tenants forced to put up with a never-ending stream of rowdy guests. There have been many big stinks made about "no-tels" lately, and a strict ban on residential apartments being rented for stays less than 30 days just needs a Johnny Hancock from Gov. Paterson to become law. Case closed? Not quite! The pro-illegal hotel lobby is staging a late offensive in an attempt to defeat the bill.
This little Gotham controversy has gone international, earning some serious ink in the UK's Guardian today. The paper mentions a Wednesday rally against the bill at City Hall attended by 500 people and wonders what the ban will do to those sites like AirBnB and Craigslist (at least it'll still have Missed Connections!), which get thousands of short-term stay postings. The Guardian story also lets us know about Protect Vacation Rentals, a website set up to sing the praises of "subletting," which features video interviews with rally attendees and open letters to the governor from industry folks like the CEO of TripAdvisor.
It's an interesting debate! On the one hand, the ease of Williamsburg landlords pocketing piles of cash from Parisian tourists without any repercussions means less available apartments out there for New Yorkers searching for an affordable place to live. On the other, well, you gotta keep the lights on somehow, right?
Joe Gebbia, president of AirBnB.com, said: "We have received over 300 letters from New Yorkers who depend on renting by the night to make ends meet. As everyone knows, NYC is financially a challenging place to live – especially in a down economy. The consequences of this generalised bill will negatively impact thousands of New Yorkers more than by the small number of 'illegal hotels'." Many residents argue that they rely on their right to sublet in order to
stave off foreclosure on their homes. For many travellers, renting an apartment or a room in an apartment is the only affordable option in a city where the average hotel room costs $232 a night.
This battle's coming down to the wire, but if the bill becomes law, we're predicting big things for our Elmhurst side project!