By Jonathan Westin 
Executive Director of New York Communities For Change

If you walk the streets of Bed-Stuy, Bushwick, or East New York or any of the neighborhoods rapidly gentrifying, you’ll hear the same thing from tenants: the rent is too damn high. 

But what a lot of tenants don’t know is that Airbnb is one of the reasons why rent is rising and available housing is becoming more scarce. If you don’t think it’s happening in your neighborhood, think again.

New York is not for sale video.
Just a few weeks ago, the organization I work for – New York Communities for Change – was at the Ebbets Field Housing Complex in Crown Heights. We were working with tenants, many of whom have faced the threat of eviction from their rent stabilized apartments, to help educate and organize them around affordable housing issues. 

But when we got there, we were confronted by Airbnb’s grift on full display. Our team came across flyer after flyer from commercial operators urging tenants to illegally turn their homes into Airbnbs. 

Unlike Airbnb who doesn’t care that housing supply is lost as long as their revenue keeps flowing, we see the eviction process up close every day. An embrace of illegal activity is so engrained into Airbnb’s corporate culture, that openly encouraging tenants to break the law, undermine their own community, and collect the profit is the norm. 

Far from helping communities of color as they claim, Airbnb hasn’t just fueled New York City’s affordable housing crisis – they have dumped gasoline on the fire. 

Airbnb shields the illegal activity of wealthy landlords and commercial operators who are pushing tenants that are disproportionately African American and Hispanic out of our homes and out of our communities. 

According to the latest report, New York City has 13,000 fewer housing units thanks to Airbnb, and with Airbnb still refusing to provide enforcement officials with data on their illegal listings, we can expect the problem to only get worse, particularly in communities of color that are already facing the crunch of a deepening affordability crisis. 

For example, in Stuyvesant Heights, 74% of Airbnb listings are controlled by white hosts, even though they make up only 7% of residents in the area. There are over 1,600 Airbnb listings in this community, housing units that instead of being made available to long-term tenants are now being used as tourist rentals. And while it’s white landlords parachuting into the neighborhood to turn a quick a profit, it’s local residents who are paying an additional $530 annually – above and beyond standard rent increases – because of Airbnb. 

This is just one example of how Airbnb’s money machine functions: profiting from illegal listings and gentrification. In fact, the scheme is so profitable for Airbnb that they pocketed $435 million – 66% of all their NYC revenue – from illegal listings last year alone. 

It’s easy to see why Airbnb won’t discloses its address listings in New York. But we won’t stand by any longer while Airbnb uses our communities as an ATM. 

So we’re issuing a challenge to Airbnb: 

Stop manipulating our housing market at the expense of black and brown tenants. 

Stop pretending to care about communities of color when every action Airbnb takes, and every law Airbnb breaks, disproportionately effects communities of color. 

And start turning over your data to enforcement officials so they can protect our affordable housing supply before it’s too late.