Business Column

Airbnb crackdown hurts millennials, New York wallets

/ The Daily Orange

There is simply no logic in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to penalize Airbnb host owners.

Bowing to pressure from the hotel industry, Cuomo recently decided to penalize Airbnb hosts who choose to rent their spaces for fewer than 30 days annually — fines can range from $1,000 to $7,500.

While the move was made to address concerns from New York’s hotel unions, according to the New York Post, it doesn’t make sense in the grand scheme of tourism for the state. Yes, cracking down on Airbnb in New York would protect hotels, but it stifles the growth of less traditional and more affordable options. This is also problematic because the law disproportionately affects millennials: young people tend to own the properties of the host sites and also engage in renting out those properties.

Raking in nearly $158 million in 2015, there are 21,000 millennials hosts in New York City alone, said Airbnb PR consultant Jennifer Burner Barden. Because millennials are drawn to Airbnb as a means to pay back their student debt and other necessary expenses, the motion feels like an abuse of government power. Beyond protecting millennial financial growth, the least Cuomo could do is maintain the jobs that are already going strong instead of punishing residents by cutting them.

Nearly 70 percent of workers in the “sharing economy” — the peer-to-peer market — are between the ages of 18 and 34 years old, according to U.S. News and World Report. This means that those who are involved with companies like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft are primarily young people, supplementing their main line of income with a side hustle.

While Cuomo’s decision may seem a little harsh, this regulation is not unusual, said Lynne Vincent, a management professor in the Martin J. Whitman school of Management at Syracuse University.

“This appears to be part of a growing movement. Other cities such as Berlin, Amsterdam, and Barcelona have also restricted or banned short term rentals. It is possible that other U.S. cities will pass similar laws,” said Vincent.

Still, Cuomo is hurting state tourist dollars. In 30 New York City zip codes, the number of Airbnb guests grew 78 percent annually, said Barden in an email. Compared that to a city-wide growth rate of 50 percent annually.

When a major city like New York has 30 zip codes alone growing 18 percent faster than the city average, it doesn’t make sense to put the city in a position to lose jobs. The risk of alienating a whole population of tourists and tourist hospitality is not worth the benefit of protecting traditional hotels.

Given that Cuomo allocated more than $50 million to the booming state tourism industry last November, the governor should be all about pushing the boundaries for new models of business. But now, instead of providing New York’s tourists with the most affordable place to stay, he looks like the guy who wants them out.

DeArbea Walker is a junior newspaper and online journalism and marketing dual major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at dbwalk01@syr.edu and followed on Twitter at @why_drb.

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