Airbnb Moves to Share Data on Its Rental Hosts in New York City

Airbnb Moves to Share Data on Its Rental Hosts in New York City
Airbnb has had a rough history with regulators in New York City. Now the company is playing nice.

On Tuesday, the short-term home-rental company began sharing data on the ways people open their homes to guests in the five boroughs. The data, an anonymized compendium of the thousands of hosts in New York, includes statistics like host earnings, the types of listings and how often people rent out their homes.

The effort is the first time Airbnb has voluntarily shared city data on a wide scale on how its hosts use the online platform. The move follows a public pledge that the company made last month, in which the startup said it wished to build an "open and transparent" community.

"Our hope is that people will understand 99 percent of people on Airbnb in New York City are using it as an economic lifeline," Chris Lehane, Airbnb's head of global policy and public affairs, said in an interview.

The action is part of the company's broad effort to convince local and national regulators that Airbnb is not a platform for so-called illegal hotel operators, who use it to skirt local housing laws and hotel restrictions to regularly rent properties to travelers.

That issue has been particularly contentious in New York, where authorities have cited the rise of Airbnb as a significant reason for an increase in overall rent prices and a lack of affordable housing.

In a report last year based on Airbnb data, the New York State attorney general's office said nearly three-quarters of Airbnb rentals in the city were illegal. By state law, a short-term entire-home rental is considered illegal if an apartment is rented out for less than 30 days. It is unclear what percentage of entire-home Airbnb listings in New York are rented for less than 30 days.

The back-and-forth landed Airbnb in court. Last May, after a protracted legal battle, Airbnb agreed to hand over anonymized data on the company's hosts in the city to Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York state attorney general.

The new data set released on Tuesday, which is made available only by making an appointment to visit Airbnb's New York City office, shows that a majority of New York City hosts do not have large numbers of properties to rent out. From November 2014 until November 2015, some 75 percent of revenue earned by active hosts in New York City who share their entire home came from people who have only one or two rental listings on the platform. Over 2015 to 2016, Airbnb projects that number will rise to 93 percent. The typical annual host income is roughly $5,110, according to the data.

"The vast majority of the community is doing this in the right way," Lehane said.

Schneiderman declined to comment.

Airbnb, founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, has over 2 million listings in 34,000 cities across 190 countries. The company is valued by investors at roughly $24 billion (roughly Rs. 1,59,760 crores) and recently closed another $100 million (roughly Rs. 665 crores) in venture financing, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Airbnb declined to comment on fundraising matters.

As the company has grown, it has resisted regulations and fought alliances in the hotel industry, from which the startup is increasingly taking a large share of customers.

Airbnb said it would expand its data-sharing efforts beyond New York City. By sharing anonymized data with other towns, the company said it hoped regulators would work to draft more comprehensive, up-to-date legislation that deals with the short-term-rental phenomenon.

"Today is really the first example of us walking the walk," Lehane said. "It's important for us now, especially in New York, to start having this conversation."

© 2015 New York Times News Service


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