‘The current system is confusing and overly restrictive. A teacher should be allowed to rent out her home for a few days when she’s away for the summer, and a family should be able to rent an apartment for a week so they can stay in the city and take their kids to see Broadway shows and visit museums.’
After a full year watching friends and neighbors get sick and witnessing economic devastation sweep across small businesses and local restaurants, there is finally an end in sight. I am dreaming of a spring full of vaccinations and a summer full of welcoming new guests when we can once again open our doors to the tourists who have been itching to get outside and visit our great city.
I am the first to say that I hope tourists flock to Times Square and Midtown Manhattan as soon as it’s safe. But the return of tourism is also an opportunity to make sure that all of New York’s community can benefit from this economic shot in the arm—and now is the time to lay the groundwork. I believe the home sharing economy can be part of ensuring an equitable recovery in this city.
As a visual artist living in Bed-Stuy, I started sharing my home on Airbnb in 2015 so I could pursue my artistic passion and still afford to stay in my native Brooklyn. The lack of tourism during the pandemic has meant fewer guests and less income, but I have continued to see the value of home sharing to individuals who need safe, affordable places to stay. During the past few months I’ve hosted people who traveled to New York to find work and a retired couple who needed a safe place to stay for a few weeks while they met their new grandchild.
Over the past few years I have met dozens of other hosts and seen first-hand how powerful this supplemental income can be for families struggling in the city, and how it can support neighborhood businesses by bringing foot traffic to areas outside of the traditional tourism districts—particularly in the outer boroughs. I refer guests to places like Happy Cork, a local wine shop owned by a woman of color, and Brooklyn restaurants like Chez Oskar and Penny House Cafe.
We need to modernize our home sharing regulations in the city in order to maximize the economic benefits. Updating these rules would allow responsible New Yorkers to share their homes and would bring tourism dollars to more neighborhoods, including the communities of color that have been hit hardest by COVID-19. Unfortunately, we know there are many small businesses that have struggled throughout the pandemic and they will continue to need help long after COVID-19 has passed.
My fellow hosts and I support proposals that would require registration, prohibit short-term rentals in affordable housing in the five boroughs and address all other reasonable concerns, but the current system is confusing and overly restrictive. A teacher should be allowed to rent out her home for a few days when she’s away for the summer, and a family should be able to rent an apartment for a week so they can stay in the city and take their kids to see Broadway shows and visit museums.
Failing to legitimize these hosts would mean holding back the recovery of businesses that rely on tourism like restaurants and theaters. It would also mean losing out on potential tax revenue. We need to distribute vaccines, reopen schools, help people cover rent and groceries, help small businesses stay open—all of that costs money, but we have budget deficits in City Hall and Albany. A recent report from Airbnb showed that modernizing home sharing laws could bring in $130 million per year to help fund the services we need to end this pandemic as soon as possible and get our local economies going again.
Throughout the years, Airbnb hosts have come together at rallies and meetings with our leaders in Albany to advocate for clearer home sharing regulations, and we’ve watched as every state that surrounds us figures this out while New York continues to lag behind. The pandemic has devastated our economy and we’re facing a looming eviction crisis. We can’t afford to wait any longer. Elected officials (and those hoping to be elected) are constantly talking about an equitable economic recovery. Now is our moment.
Danie Herard is a visual artist and Airbnb host from Brooklyn.