Stringer’s pathetic Airbnb attack

City Comptroller Scott Stringer wants you to blame Airbnb for your rent being too damn high. But his study to back up that charge actually does no such thing.

“For years, New Yorkers have felt the burden of rents that go nowhere but up, and Airbnb is one reason why,” Stringer’s office insists. His study argues that units listed on Airbnb “might otherwise be available” for permanent housing, so the company is fueling rent hikes by holding down the supply.

This, he charges, is failing to put “people before profits.” (Airbnb hosts and guests, it seems, don’t count as people.)

From 2009 to 2016, he found, average city rents rose 25 percent. Yet he blames only 9.2 percent of that rise on Airbnb listings — which (though his report doesn’t spell it out) means he’s saying it caused a 2.3 percent rent hike over that seven-year period, or just 0.3 percent a year.

And even that’s bull, since Stringer assumes all Airbnb rentals are units removed from the regular housing market. In fact, the company notes he plainly misread its data: Hosts share their homes for just 60 nights a year on average; most live there themselves. They’re just making a few extra bucks to cover their own rents (or other housing costs).

Even with those bogus assumptions, Stringer’s actual 0.3 percent-a-year finding barely differs from the conclusion of a paper recently presented to the American Economic Association, in which economists Kyle Barron, Edward Kung and Davide Proserpio conclude Airbnb has had a virtually “zero effect on rental rates.”

Airbnb has filed a Freedom of Information request to find out what drove the comptroller’s study, noting: “Information has been brought to our attention and we have reason to believe that this report was influenced by powerful special interests.”

Hmm: The hotel industry (which has funneled $36,000 to Stringer’s campaigns since 2001) hates losing business to short-term apartment rentals. And the hotel-workers union (a rising force in local Democratic politics) is equally hostile to Airbnb.

As Airbnb points out, it’s nutty to think 50,000 home-sharing units can push up average rents very much in a city with 3.5 million homes. So let’s hope Stringer is pandering to the hotel crowd, because a report this shoddy would otherwise raise serious questions about his competence.

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