Bonacic lays out support for Airbnb

MONTICELLO, NY — In recent months Sen. John Bonacic has been telling anyone who would listen about the benefits of Airbnb, especially for seniors who own homes in New York State and have trouble paying their taxes. He has been promoting a bill that he would like to see passed this year that would add some regulations and clarity to the home-sharing industry.

At a legislative breakfast at Resorts World Catskills on March 21, Bonacic explained his support for people who might like to rent out their homes via organizations like Airbnb.

He said there are 18 counties in the state, including Sullivan, that have agreements with Airbnb members, in which Airbnb collects the room tax and remits it to the county treasurer’s department. He said he wasn’t sure whether those agreements were legal, and that his legislation would ensure that those agreements would be legal, although no one at the moment is pursuing lawsuits against Airbnb or the members.

He told the room full of tourism executives that Airbnb is a responsible operation. He said, “They have eliminated more than 5,000 members who were not playing by the rules.”

He continued, “The thrust for me doing this—I believe in the shared economy. Airbnb is all over the world; there are only three countries that don’t have it—Syria, Iran and [North Korea].

“On average in the state of New York, an Aribnb person will make about $5,000 [per year.] It helps with property taxes, which are crushing our homeowners. We want our seniors to stay a little longer in their homes, so that’s why I got on the bandwagon with this. It’s going to, I believe, follow Uber and Lyft in the shared-economy concept. The millennials travel all over the world; they use Airbnb.

“Now, the hotel industry in New York City doesn’t want Airbnb. They don’t want it there. And heavy money has been put into the New York City Council and some people in the legislature to suppress Airbnb. If you own a one or two family, the law doesn’t apply to you; you can use Airbnb. More than two families becomes a problem [if you want to rent your apartment out for less than 30 days.]

“And just as an aside, the hotel industry can’t build new hotels fast enough in New York City for the foreign travelers that are coming in. So, I see a millennial coming in who wants the cheapest possible place to sleep, and then I see those people who want a hotel, who want dining, parking and all the other parking amenities. Two different kinds of consumers. I think there’s room for both, and we’re working hard to bring them together.”

Sen. Liz Krueger, who represents part of Manhattan, is strongly opposed to operations such as Airbnb. She issued a statement last year regarding “floating brothels” that were popping up in short-term rentals in the city. She said, “There’s a reason that we zone certain areas, buildings, and neighborhoods to be residential: both because we need to protect the limited housing stock we have from being arbitraged into other uses, and because residents living side-by-side and on top of one another in apartment buildings deserve some ground rules and guarantees about what they have to put up with. Companies like Airbnb have decided to ignore all that, so they can pull in revenue from the estimated two-thirds of their New York City business that’s illegal. What do they care? They don’t live in these buildings.

“The outcome of this, predictably, has been constant streams of tourists disrupting residential buildings, and other inappropriate, even illegal activity floating from building to building. Today it’s a prostitution ring, tomorrow it could be an illegal gambling ring, and maybe next week it could be a drug operation.”

One recent study found that 12% of Airbnb units in New York City, which operate despite laws prohibiting them, were commercial operations, with the owner controlling 12 units or more. Bonacic has said his legislation would prohibit commercial operations from using house-share programs.


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