Mount Neboh Baptist Church hosts Harlem Economic Justice Day conference

By the Rev. Dr. Johnnie M. Green Jr., Mount Neboh Baptist Church | 1/18/2018, 5:43 p.m.
From record low crime rates to record high job numbers, New York City is on the rise.

From record low crime rates to record high job numbers, New York City is on the rise. However, one issue continues to haunt families throughout the five boroughs: skyrocketing costs that are making it increasingly difficult for households to pay their bills and stay in the communities they love. From Bed-Stuy to Harlem, families who have lived in neighborhoods for generations are finding themselves pushed out as rents, property taxes and even water bills soar.

Recently, a group of community and faith leaders from across the city gathered at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem for the Economic Justice Day conference organized by Mobilizing Preachers and Community. Representatives from the National Action Network, the Harlem Business Alliance and the New York Urban League joined Airbnb adviser, actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover to discuss economic empowerment and bring important lessons back to their congregations throughout the city.

Economic justice is about making economic opportunity available to everyone, not just those who have traditionally held the wealth and power in our city. By leveraging the tools of entrepreneurship, middle class New Yorkers can take control of their economic future and finally push back against the wave of rising costs.

One of these tools is home sharing, which is allowing hard-working New Yorkers to turn their greatest expense—their home—into an asset that can provide a bridge to financial stability.

In New York City alone, more than 40,000 people host their homes on Airbnb, the world’s largest home sharing platform and a sponsor of the Economic Justice Day event. The typical host earns approximately $5,000 a year to help cover daily expenses such as food and rent, withstand emergencies such as illnesses and unemployment and save for retirement or pay back student loans. Nearly 80 percent of New York City hosts say that Airbnb has helped them stay in their home, with 30 percent saying that supplemental income has helped them avoid eviction or foreclosure.

Visitors flock to New York throughout the year, but until Airbnb, their options for accommodations were mostly limited to hotels in the traditional tourism districts. Now, these dollars are shared with real New Yorkers in Northern Manhattan and the outer boroughs. In fact, nearly 90 percent of Airbnb listings are outside the Midtown hotel district, with listings in the Bronx and Queens growing faster than any other borough.

Resident hosts aren’t the only winners from the home-sharing revolution. Hosts frequently share recommendations of favorite local restaurants or shops, boosting the bottom line of small businesses on their block and strengthening communities by stimulating the local economy and bringing everyone together to show pride in their neighborhoods.

Even as home sharing has boomed in the Empire State, the hotel industry, which achieved record profits last year, has pumped millions of dollars into a faux-grassroots campaign to protect its ability to price gouge consumers at the expense of New York families.

Hosts are fighting back—hard. On the day of the conference, approximately 50 hosts gathered in the driving snow to protest the hotel cartel and the politicians who do their bidding through repeated attacks and policies that directly impact our communities.

Airbnb’s host community grows stronger every day and is committed to reforming antiquated policies that disproportionately affect low-income New Yorkers and people of color. Bipartisan legislation introduced in the New York State Legislature (A-7520/S-7182) would allow all New Yorkers to share their homes, create new tools to protect affordable housing and generate nearly $100 million a year to support public services in the first year alone.

Airbnb is a key part of rethinking how we cultivate resilient communities of inclusion and belonging in our city. The cost of living in New York is not going down, but we do not have to let it overtake us. We must come together to share solutions that promote economic empowerment and economic justice. By supporting one another, we all rise.