Sharing Economy

Anti-Airbnb Rat Finks Do Freelance Urban Planning; They Know the Best Use for Everyone's Property!

Whether or not the "sharing economy" is properly communal, it better satisfies human needs. Naturally people want to kill it.

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Alternet crows about some gross busybodism on the part of anti-Airbnb activists in New York City, who have created a site called "Inside Airbnb," charting the service's use over the city and essentially ratting out people who might be violating city law by doing short-term apartment rentals. (I've written previously about the New York Attorney General's office frowning concern over the Internet-enabled short-term lodging service.)

Some excerpts from the site's operator Murray Cox in his Alternet interview:

it was widely reported that many Airbnb hosts were operating illegal hotels and that neither the hosts nor Airbnb were collecting taxes. There was an active and public debate in Albany about the laws, and a legal battle to get Airbnb to release data on how their rental platform was being used.

I get suspicious when a company engages in a public relations campaign while laws are being debated by elected officials, or in the courts. It seemed that Airbnb was being completely unaccountable to the community, yet asking for the laws to be changed for their benefit…

Once I saw the data for my neighborhood, it both confirmed my suspicions and surprised me. At least 1,224 Airbnb listings were on the Airbnb website for Bedford-Stuyvesant, with 633 (51.7%) of those being for an "entire home/apartment." Looking at the calendars and reviews for the entire homes/apartments, I found that more than 90% of them were available for more than 60 days out of the year, and on average received a review from a guest once a month…..

In addition, 43.5% of the listings in Bedford-Stuyvesant were by hosts with more than one listing, sometimes multiple entire apartments or multiple rooms in an apartment building. This is not a story of "sharing" or of a "sharing economy."

While the term "sharing economy" probably has helped get certain people of vaguely communitarian tinge to sometimes get behind economic phenomena like Uber and Airbnb that are indeed just further manifestations of the ancient human desire to exchange goods and services for money, it does provide an easy way for people like Cox to sneer and act as if they've made a substantive critique, so maybe it is time to defenders of tech-enabled market transactions to walk away from it.

So, what's the problem with units shifting from long-term to short-term rental if that's where more people demonstrate the desire to spend their money? Well, it creates a pattern that Cox isn't happy with:

While Airbnb might not be the root cause of inequality and gentrification, they are enabling behavior by property owners and investors which directly impacts the housing supply for regular New Yorkers (in a city with a very high percentage of renters). This includes not only renting rooms and apartments to tourists that have historically been rented to residents, but also includes buying and renovating real estate just for the purpose of renting to tourists….

Also, it brings the wrong sort of people to certain neighborhoods. You know. Don't make him say it!

There is also a high correlation with racial gentrification. When I examined the racial identity of Airbnb hosts in historically segregated neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, many of the host photos did not match the racial demographic of their neighborhood.

Cox goes on to call on citizens to use existing laws and regulations and "housing support" groups as tools to help mess up the lives of people who might want to rent, or be renters, in NYC properties short term, using the information he provides as an aid. Sigh.

WNYC radio reported last month on the city using Palantir data technology for its own inspectors to keep on top of illegal Airbnbing.

In other Airbnb news, late last year the Manhattan Supreme Court ruled that a rent-controlled duplex renter was illegally "profiteering" through Airbnb, as New York Law Journal reported:

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Robinson Edmead….issued a temporary injunction against Noelle Penraat [accused of making] substantial income from renting to visitors arranged through Airbnb in 2013 and 2014 in an "incurable" violation of Rent Control Laws.

The laws prohibit occupants of rent-controlled apartments from subleasing their units at rates higher than what the building owners can charge.

Edmead said in Brookford v. Penraat, 159605/14, that while Penraat pays $4,477 a month on her four-bedroom duplex at 315 Central Park West—minus a $284 monthly discount through the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program—she made an average of $6,500 a month through Airbnb rentals from January through June 2014.

"In essence, defendant's own records indicate that she has been profiteering from a rent-controlled apartment partially subsidized by another government program, SCRIE," Edmead wrote….

The owner of Penraat's building, Brookford LLC, brought suit on claims that Penraat's rental activities broke not only the Rent Control Law, but also the Multiple Dwelling Law, the Housing Maintenance Code and the New York City Building Code.

Edmead said she was granting the preliminary injunction because Brookford has demonstrated a likelihood that it will prevail in its action and that Penraat was, in fact, breaking the law.

New York Post reported last week on a similar anti-Airbnb-using tenant ruling by a Manhattan Housing Court judge, and quotes:

state Sen. Liz Krueger, an opponent of the site. "This decision reinforces what tenant advocates and I have been saying all along — almost all NYC residents who list their homes on sites like Airbnb are violating the terms of their leases and putting themselves at risk of eviction," Krueger said.

Doug Henwood in great detail at the Nation laid out this month a wan leftist bill of indictment against all the new, Internet-enabled uses of property to more widely and efficiently meet human needs. Things like Uber and Airbnb might not rise to the level of full immiseration of the proletariat or theft of the fruits of the people's labor, but, well, Henwood indicts, the movement is "individualized and market-driven [and] sees us all as micro-entrepreneurs fending for ourselves in a hostile world."

It also isn't really as communal as some of the rhetoric surrounding it pretends, shifts some people's rental property to uses neighbors or city planners might not like, and while pretending to transcend ownership, in fact is just about one more series of crummy poor paying jobs.

If that is the best that the Nation can come up with in an ideological war against the tech-enabled "sharing economy" (really just one more facet of the market economy, one further example of being trading their goods and services with each other, just in ways that used to be too difficult for us to manage) that's a good sign for the long-term victory for the idea that we should be able to make mutually satisfying deals with our cars, homes, apartments, CNC mills, and anything else.

However, as the laws and decisions bedeviling Airbnb's show, bad existing laws are already enough to severly limit the amount of human happiness that tech will allow us to achieve, whether the ideological battle against the so-called "sharing economy" is won or not.

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  1. …”Henwood indicts, the movement is “individualized and market-driven [and] sees us all as micro-entrepreneurs fending for ourselves in a hostile world.”…

    Poor little guy prolly has to check under his bed for gremlins before he goes night-night.

    1. No, he doesn’t. As long as De Blasio keeps his rent controlled, he feels all safe and warm.

  2. Alternet crows about some gross busybodism on the part of anti-Airbnb activists

    The progs have literally become fun-killing, busybody coots, yet they still think of themselves as “hip” and cool. It’s amazing. They’re everything they project onto what they would inevitably think as the province of old stiff white people. They hate everything new and innovative. They hate it when people make money or profit. They hate it when existing, crony-infested stagnant markets are shaken up by new actors. They hate anything funny or (actually) edgy. They’re literally the least fun or pleasant people possible, yet their image of themselves is the polar opposite, and nothing seems capable of shaking that. It’s really fucking amazing.

    Their projection is so pervasive it’s scary.

    1. I think Camille Paglia put it really well: I remember reading one of her essays where she spoke about how Stalinist the feminist movement had become. “Stalinist” applies to the progs in general.

  3. What a cunt.

    1. A snotty little self-appointed cunt.

      -jcr

  4. They hate everything new and innovative.

    Oh, I dunno, Epi, if the new thing is a gigantic waste of money that gives them a chance to engage in moral preening they seem to be endlessly enthusiastic.

    1. There’s nothing new or innovative about spending gobs of cash colossally fucking up successful things. It’s been the progressive purview for nearly a century now.

  5. in Brookford v. Penraat…while Penraat pays $4,477 a month on her four-bedroom duplex at 315 Central Park West?minus a $284 monthly discount through the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program?she made an average of $6,500 a month through Airbnb rentals from January through June 2014.

    “In essence…she has been profiteering from a rent-controlled apartment partially subsidized by another government program, SCRIE”…

    You’ve got to admire the government’s tenacity and reality-proofing, really. It doesn’t occur to them to deep-six the rent control program, which is foul with corruption (and obviously is benefiting the greedy and not the needy, if a woman who can afford to pay $4,477 a month for rent is receiving any kind of government subsidy whatsoever). Instead, let’s keep the corrupt, rotten-to-the-core subsidy program for elites who think they’re entitled to live in Manhattan, and just punish the few people we’re shrewd enough to catch taking advantage of it.

    1. I know a woman that is subletting (illegally) a 2BR apartment on the UES for $2,500 a month, with the legal renter paying $1,200.

      Meanwhile, a non-rent controlled apartment of similar size and location is renting for substantially more than the $2,500, my guess would be close to double.

      It’s all about feelings, nothing to do with logic. Feelings are warm and fuzzy, logic is cold and unyielding.

      1. I’ve seen far more egregious rent control; for instance, I stayed in the apartment of a friend of an ex-girlfriend in Brooklyn Heights in 2008. Great location, super close to the subway, wine and grocery stores on that very block. It was a two bedroom apartment with a pretty nice kitchen…and a balcony with enough room for a table, chairs, and grill. She paid something on the order of $500/month. That place should have been $2500/month easy, probably way more (I’m not as familiar with “normal” Brooklyn prices as I am with Manhattan prices).

        People think of rent control as just part of the way things work, and on top of that, they hope against hope that one day they will get lucky and get their hands on one. So there’s oddly no impetus from renters to get rid of it, mainly because they don’t understand that they subsidize the people who do have rent control, and even if they were to get it themselves, it would take years to compensate for the amount they paid more because of other people’s rent control.

        The landlords hate it, of course, but compensate by charging other renters more. And since people think of all landlords as slumlords whether they are or not, no one has the slightest bit of sympathy for them. Plus they’re “rich”, so fuck them, of course.

        1. The idea/myth that landlords are rich is one of the key feature of prog ignorance on matters of finance and economics. Sure, some own multiple buildings and are rich. Others just earn additional income with one or two properties.

          Here in Quebec, there’s an automatic built-in suspicion of private enterprise mostly driven by populist collectivist drivel and envy.

          In the end, it’s just that. Envy.

          1. “In the end, it’s just that. Envy.”

            GUILTY envy.
            I bought when it ate well over half my income; coffee was not a leisure-time activity at a coffee shop; it was $0.05/cup with Safeway economy-brand beans.
            I was and am resented by those who would rather eat lunch at the restaurant as opposed to packing something left over from last night.
            And they act so morally superior about it, too!

        2. I’m not as familiar with “normal” Brooklyn prices as I am with Manhattan prices

          Brooklyn Heights prices are Manhattan prices.

        3. The landlords hate it, of course, but compensate by charging other renters more.

          I live in a controlled building, although I pay pretty much market rates anyway because I just moved in a couple years ago. The landlord freely admitted that I couldn’t negotiate much lower because the building’s still got some old folks paying next to nothing.

          1. Amazing ain’t it. Collectived guilt means certain groups get benefits at the expense of others. The old folks, whose generation created unsustainable programs are somehow not to be singled out for punishment. If you think holding white men responsible for slavery is fine, then why can’t you hold the boomers responsible for the shortfall in SS etc?

    2. Obviously the assumption is that if you are white and live on Central Park West, you must be rich. Even if that assumption is countered by the facts, it’s still guilty until proven innocent, OBVIOUSLY. So kick the elderly out on the street and celebrate the greedy elite like the Habermans for being ‘shrewd’? OBVIOUSLY attacking the impoverished is the goal here. Hardly something to admire.

  6. When I examined the racial identity of Airbnb hosts in historically segregated neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, many of the host photos did not match the racial demographic of their neighborhood.

    So what he’s saying is.. racial segregation is to be desired?

    1. Oh, most certainly. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this*, but progs are racist as fuck. Which they then project onto their opponents.

      * Just kidding, of course you have. In fact just about everyone but the progs themselves have noticed this.

    2. Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights are Southern Confederate States? Who knew?

    3. You mean to tell me “host photos” are *legal*?

  7. OT: Yellin gonna fix the economy to even it that means destroying it

    We have completely lost this argument. Time for me to just concede and watch it unfold.

    1. “I strongly oppose audit the Fed,” she said.

      Oh, come on, Janet. Give us a little peek.

      1. Where’s barfman when you need him?

  8. Im done with this ridiculous city. Gotta move out

  9. [Airbnb] are enabling behavior by property owners and investors which directly impacts the housing supply

    Indeed. Just like the IRS and the City of New York do.

    1. “Just like the IRS and the City of New York do”

      Yep, that ‘rent control’ really builds the housing stock, right?

  10. AirBNB is yet another startup that thinks it should gain competitive advantage by disregarding laws that everyone else follows. It is perfectly easy for AirBNB to play fair – follow the law like everyone else does. Its simple, transparent, honest, does not impose a tax burden on everyone else by dodging it yourself, legal, fair…

    We need a law that allows them to be fined say 10% of worldwide turnover for breaches if they will not otherwise comply.

    I’m all for the “sharing economy” if it plays by the rules and bows to local democracy. If it does not it should be expunged, forcibly. And if AirBNB was expunged an alternative would arise that did play by the rules.

    https://www.zoplay.com/web/rental-booking-script/

    1. you forgot to add /sarc at the end.

      1. Go to the website. He’s a competitor of AirBnB

        1. funny he thought this would be a good site to peddle his bs. doesn’t stop the other trolls, so…..

    2. This spambot is awfully on point.

    3. “I’m all for the “sharing economy” if it plays by the rules and bows to local democracy”

      Uh, IOWs, ‘don’t make waves?’
      Sniff, sniff; smells funny.

  11. I get suspicious when a company engages in a public relations campaign while laws are being debated by elected officials, or in the courts.

    And I get suspicious when those who think I need government permission to engage in consensual enterprise open their fucking yaps.

  12. I have no issue with neighbors raising a fuss about airbnb rentals, short term or otherwise. They live there and if the renters (or subrenters) are having a negative impact, they are within their rights to seek means to put an end to it.

    This is also well within libertarian thought: someobody else is doing something that adversely affects the value of your property.

    1. This is also well within libertarian thought: someobody else is doing something that adversely affects the value of your property.

      Except that you don’t own value. This is something that many people don’t seem to understand. Value is what somebody else is willing to give you.

      They live there and if the renters (or subrenters) are having a negative impact, they are within their rights to seek means to put an end to it.

      Not if there isn’t some kind of prior arrangement. Just because you don’t like what I am doing with my property doesn’t change the fact that it is mine.

  13. (1) Let’s say you live in a peaceful neighborhood for many years, and one morning you wake up and there are beer cans on your front lawn and a car blocking your driveway. Your neighbor has turned his house into an airbnb property!

    Is airbnb concerned? Hell no. You have to pay and fight to keep your neighborhood from sliding into the abyss.

    (2) A hotel housekeeper takes the 5 am bus for years to get to work. She’s laid off because the hotel is losing business to airbnb landlords.

    (3) An airbnb house rents to someone with a disability. There are no ramps or fire exits or other safety measures that hotels have to install because they follow the rules.

    Is airbnb concerned about this? Hell no, they take the money and run. It’s bad business. A “reason”able person would see that.

    There are thousands of airbnb horror stories about airbnb experiences, and they will likely grow.

    1. (1) Or the city housing authority has turned my neighbor’s house into Section 8 housing. Is the city concerned? Hell no.

      (2) A job is not an entitlement. With her experience, she can probably get a job with a maid service and go house to house in a neighborhood instead of room to room in a hotel. And get paid more.

      (3) Apparently the person with the disability didn’t feel the government-forced amenities were worth the extra cost. But you want more of the disabled person’s money to be taken.

      You hate people. Please kill yourself.

    2. The money they take is for providing the service of matching people who want to rent out their rooms with people who want to rent those rooms. Insofar as they are liable, it is for any knowing misrepresentations or other fraudulent activity.

      The “airbnb horror stories” are better described as “shitty people horror stories” because there’s nothing particular about airbnb to them. The same shit happened when classified ads ruled the day, and even without airbnb, there will still be shitty people who take advantage of situations.

  14. (1) Let’s say you live in a peaceful neighborhood for many years, and one morning you wake up and there are beer cans on your front lawn and a car blocking your driveway. Your neighbor has turned his house into an airbnb property!

    Uh, did Airbnb buy the property? No, moron.

    So, it is not turned into an “airbnb property”, the owner uses Airbnb to find/arrange renters. Airbnb is not responsible for the activity of the renters (beer cans on your lawn). The renters are. Blame them, not Airbnb.

    (2) A hotel housekeeper takes the 5 am bus for years to get to work. She’s laid off because the hotel is losing business to airbnb landlords.

    So fucking what? That is how markets work. Innovation is constantly destroying / obsoleting products and services.

    (3) An airbnb house rents to someone with a disability. There are no ramps or fire exits or other safety measures that hotels have to install because they follow the rules.

    1.) Airbnb doesn’t rent anything to anyone. Airbnb connects potential renters to people with rooms/property to rent.

    2.) Is someone with a disability freely agrees to rent accomodations that are not “handicapped accessible” why do you fucking care?

    1. as ross ulbricht proved, you are responsible for things other people do on your website. just like if someone broke a law in your house youd be responsible, right?

  15. money IS goods and services. i could care less about how many pieces of paper i have in my wallet, but paying rent and eating are things i do care about

  16. In my personal opinion,I would say that Airbnb doesn’t involve to the issues related to either their host or guest. They will not give much preference to solve the dispute between the renters and neighborhoods.

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