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City funds anti-Airbnb enforcement efforts in latest budget

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The office in charge of doling out fines for illegal short-term stay listings is about to get a whole lot bigger

Peter Zoon via Flickr

Mayor de Blasio announced his executive budget on Wednesday, detailing where the city will concentrate funds in the next two fiscal years. While the City Council still needs to approve the budget, it enforces known points of interest for the administration and offers more insight into where the city will be focusing its efforts in the years to come.

The budget includes $1.9 million earmarked for creating 10,000 additional units of affordable housing over the coming years in addition to the 200,000 units the administration seeks to create and preserve, an initiative announced in De Blasio’s February State of the City speech. It also sets aside $93 million annually to provide legal services and advice to low-income families facing eviction.

The budget also makes clear that the De Blasio administration plans on advancing its agenda against illegal short-term stay listings. The budget includes $2.9 million that will go towards allowing the city’s Office of Special Enforcement to add 16 new employees to its 32-person team, Crain’s notes. The office is in charge of enforcing legislation that prohibits landlords and tenants from illegally renting whole apartments for less than 30 days.

In October 2016, Governor Cuomo signed a bill into law that imposes fines of up to $7,500 on short-term stay site users who advertise these kinds of illegal rentals. The directive is meant to discourage landlords from turning their buildings into illegal hotels; its focus, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman noted, is not on folks looking to earn a buck back on their rent when they’re out of town. (That said, that too is still illegal.)

Since the law came down, the Office of Special Enforcement has been busy doling out fines. Manhattan landlord Hank Freid has cumulatively incurred $27,000 in fines for listing units at an apartment building-turned-hotel at 258 West 97th Street on various travel booking sites. Former Compass broker Tatiana Cames was also hit with fines for illegally listing apartments in Bed-Stuy.

“The mayor is hiring more building inspectors, lawyers and police officers, among other staff, to significantly beef up enforcement against property owners who rent homes as hotel rooms," said mayoral spokeswoman Melissa Grace. "From tall towers in Midtown Manhattan to brownstones in Brooklyn and entire buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, this illegal activity takes permanent housing off the market, puts people at risk and damages neighborhoods."