NYC Renters Paid Extra $616 Million Thanks to Airbnb, Study Says

(Bloomberg) -- The cost of Airbnb to New York renters: $616 million.

That’s the conclusion of a new report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer that details the home-sharing website’s impact on housing affordability from 2009 to 2016. It’s no secret to New Yorkers that leasing costs skyrocketed during the time. But to isolate the Airbnb effect, Stringer’s office compared the growth in what rents would have been without listings on the site to what they actually were. Airbnb Inc. disputed the study’s findings, calling them “wrong on the facts” and containing “substantive issues with the methodology.”

Owners who list their apartments for short-term stays essentially are removing those units from the rental market, reducing the supply of housing and pushing up the cost of what remains, according to the report. For each 1 percent of all residential units in a neighborhood listed on Airbnb, rents in that neighborhood went up 1.58 percent, Stringer said. The estimated $616 million impact is for 2016 alone.

Neighborhoods in Midtown and lower Manhattan -- such as Chelsea, Greenwich Village and Soho -- took the greatest hit, with about 20 percent of rent increases in those areas due to Airbnb, according to the report. In 2016, about 52 percent of Airbnb listings were in Manhattan, with a particular concentration south of 59th Street, and 35 percent were in Brooklyn.

“From Bushwick to Chinatown and in so many neighborhoods in between, affordable apartments that should be available to rent never hit the market because they are making a profit for Airbnb,” Stringer said in the report.

Most Airbnb hosts share the homes in which they live, and don’t permanently remove housing from the market, the San Francisco-based startup said in a rebuttal of Stringer’s report. Those who list their homes on Airbnb are “once again faulted for an affordability crisis that they have no part in -- and one that they themselves face every day,” the company said.

By Thursday afternoon, Airbnb was still doing damage control in a conference call with reporters. Chris Lehane, the company’s head of policy and public affairs, said the city’s data was outdated and pointed to recent studies that said rents in some New York boroughs dropped as much as 6 percent in March. Lehane, a onetime spokesman for President Bill Clinton, said Airbnb filed a public information request seeking additional details on the new report.

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