Travel

Airbnb drops 2,000 New York listings and bans some rental hosts

Online accommodations rental company Airbnb last week said it dropped 2,000 listings and permanently banned some property hosts from the site because they "weren't making their neighborhood stronger, they weren't delivering the kind of hospitality our guests expect and deserve," a company's blog post said.

New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman had a different take. In a New York Times op-ed piece on Thursday, Schneiderman claims Airbnb hosts in New York flout a 2010 law prohibiting short-term rentals in apartment buildings and said the company took action the day before it was due in court.

"Airbnb 'hosts' rent out apartments every day in violation of this law," the article says. "Some of these are large, commercial enterprises with dozens of apartments -- truly illegal hotels."

The Airbnb Public Policy blog says only that it dropped the hosts, though it's allowing them to remain online in the short term to fulfill existing reservations.

The company, valued last week at $10 billion, promotes a feel-good mission of connecting more than 500,000 hosts around the world to create "amazing, personal, local experiences for millions of guests a year."

Its Shared City initiative launched last month says it seeks civic and community partners to help create more livable cities. Schneiderman, however, sees this as a company out to sidestep regulators and thereby pose a danger to the public.

It's cooperation he's seeking instead of legal tactics, he says in the piece titled "Taming the Digital Wild West."

On its blog, Airbnb says it will generate $768 million in New York this year and support 6,600 jobs. It also says it has helped hosts hang on to their homes (the average New York host takes in $7,530 a year) and makes the city more affordable for locals and travelers.

Schneiderman says building codes for real hotels were created to protect travelers; Airbnb counters that New York is just out of step with the new crowd-sourcing, home-sharing world.

"Cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg [Germany] are embracing the sharing economy, and New York shouldn't be stuck playing catch up," the company's blog says.

The company announced earlier this month that it would begin collecting taxes in Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; and New York City, a move that likely will push home-share prices up in those cities.

Mary.Forgione@latimes.com
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