Man at His Best

Opinion: The Airbnb Ban In New York Will Stifle The City's Innovation

Co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Airbnb, Joe Gebbia believes home-sharing allows artists and entrepreneurs to turn their biggest expense—their home—into their greatest asset.​

BY JOE GEBBIA | Aug 12, 2016 | Travel

In January 1818, a cargo ship pulled out of New York Harbour en route to Liverpool—a trip that had been taken thousands of times before. But this journey was different: Instead of setting off only once it was filled with goods, the ship announced its precise departure time months in advance, making it the first regularly scheduled cargo ship in the world.

Many observers scoffed, saying that shippers and passengers would never put up with the higher costs associated with the service. However, by the 1820s, a strategy that was mocked and derided just years before was being copied by companies in port cities throughout the United States.

Scheduled shipping is one of many inventions that has made New York a global capital of innovation and creativity—from Willis Carrier's invention of air conditioning in Buffalo and George Eastman's breakthrough film technology in Rochester to the rise of hip-hop in the South Bronx and the world's first cell phone call in Midtown Manhattan.

And yet for as long as the creative and entrepreneurial class has been drawn to New York, they have struggled to make ends meet while making their new idea a reality. In New York, ingenuity goes hand-in-hand with the hustle to survive.

At Airbnb, we are proud to offer a solution. By helping New Yorkers turn their greatest expense—their home—into an asset, Airbnb is a vehicle that artists, entrepreneurs, and innovators can use to earn extra money to pursue their passion.

Central to the company's mission is the notion that our service is an economic lifesaver for people with big ideas. We started Airbnb because, like many across the U.S. and in New York, we were struggling to pay our rent and decided to open up our living room to fellow artists coming to town for a design conference. Sharing our apartment allowed us to stay in our home and start our company.

By helping New Yorkers turn their greatest expense—their home—into an asset, Airbnb is a vehicle that artists and entrepreneurs, and innovators can use to earn extra money to pursue their passion. 
 

An anti-tenant, anti-home-sharing bill passed by the New York State Legislature in June threatens to undermine such entrepreneurial spirit. The bill sends a signal to the new economy that New York is more interested in propping up legacy industries than embracing transformative ideas.

New York's Attorney General recently declared, "It is no longer acceptable for regulators and policymakers to cling to traditional rules just because they are familiar, or to protect the status quo because they are used to working with existing companies.”

But that's exactly what Albany legislators have done. Instead of working with Airbnb and others to craft comprehensive regulations that crack down on bad actors and encourages responsible home sharing—something that over 70 percent of New Yorkers support—the Legislature has rubber-stamped a proposal designed to do one thing and one thing only: attempt to destroy the popular home-sharing economy to protect the interests of the hotel industry.

The proponents of this ill-conceived legislation insist that they are only targeting illegal hotels. However, the bill—which would prohibit advertising one's home for rent for fewer than 30 days—does not distinguish between a commercial operator running an illegal hotel and a single mother who rents her home when away for the weekend to make ends meet.

The misinformation doesn't end there.

On the floor of the State Assembly, the bill sponsor declared that "nearly half of all hosts are commercial operators who have more than one unit." In fact, 96 percent of Airbnb hosts in New York who rent an entire home share only a single unit.

Another legislator insisted that Airbnb "circumvents" taxes, when in fact Airbnb welcomes the opportunity to collect and remit lodging taxes. The company has generated USD110 million in tax revenue worldwide and recently announced its first two tax agreements in New York State, in Tompkins and Sullivan Counties.

Worst of all, the sponsor declared that home sharing, "Cater[s] more to tourists...than to people who are the backbone of the City of New York."

Tell that to the estimated 31,000 New Yorkers who rely on Airbnb to fend off eviction, foreclosure, or bankruptcy; to the artists who use their supplemental income to stay in their communities; to the seniors on fixed incomes who are increasingly using Airbnb to age in place in the neighbourhoods they love.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been a great champion of the tech economy, spearheading critical economic development and infrastructure investments that have brought nanotechnology to the Capital Region, solar power development to Buffalo, and thousands of new technology jobs throughout New York City.

By vetoing this bill, the Governor will not only support tourism across the state, but will also promote a vital source of income for middle-class New Yorkers and reassure entrepreneurs that New York is and will remain open for business.

From: Esquire US.