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City Council Tries to Get to the Bottom of Airbnb Controversy

A City Council hearing on apartment-sharing websites such as, most prominently, the highly controversial Airbnb, started this morning and is currently still happening. Everybody looks a little tired.

The panel of council members, led by Housing and Buildings Committee Chairman Jumaane Williams, has heard testimony from tenants who claim to be suffering from landlords converting units in their buildings into illegal hotels, and has grilled representatives from the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) and from Airbnb itself, among others. Elizabeth Glazer, from the OSE, defended the city's policy of responding to the growing number of illegal transient use cases as a "complain-driven organization," rather than proactively seeking out violators. However, multiple council members took issue with that approach, claiming that the OSE, which fielded 1,150 illegal-hotel complaints last year, conducted 883 inspections, and issued just under 500 violations, is overlooking the vast majority of illegal hotels in the city. According to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office, over 16,000 rooms were rented out on Airbnb last year, with nearly three-quarters violating city or state laws. "Your job is to defend the budget allocations," Councilman Mark Levine said to Glazer. "It strains credulity [that the city could be investigating a significant portion of illegal hotels.]"

The representatives from Airbnb, when it was their turn to be grilled, gave a preview of what their strategy will be should lawsuits from the state start coming down, claiming that the majority of their users are full-time occupants who rent out their apartment once or twice or a few times a year while on vacation, or to make ends meet. They would be the true victims of a crackdown, not the nefarious landlords, the apartment-sharing website claimed.
· Lawmakers Look at How Airbnb Affects NYC Housing, Economy [ABC]
· Airbnb to face grilling by NYC City Council [USA]
· Lawmakers look at how Airbnb affects NYC housing, economy [Brooklyn Eagle]
· Airbnb coverage [Curbed]