Neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, a great debate rages over how we can make living in New York City more affordable for everyday New Yorkers, rather than a luxury only the privileged few can afford. At the heart of that debate is the housing crisis. Although there are precious few neighborhoods where the problem is not evident, nowhere is the lack of affordable housing more acute than in what have historically been minority communities.

As if the challenge of rising rents, flat wages and shrinking housing options weren’t enough, many predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods are facing a new and dangerous threat: the rampant growth of such illegal hotel companies as Airbnb, which are steadily draining our neighborhoods of scarce affordable housing. As Airbnb and illegal hotel usage becomes increasingly prevalent in communities of color and diverse neighborhoods, where affordable housing is limited and rents have seen substantial increases, long-time residents are being driven out of the only place they have ever called home.

Airbnb is just one of numerous illegal hotel companies profiting from the depletion of our city’s affordable housing stock. A recent investigation by the New York attorney general found that over the past four years, Airbnb has amassed nearly 25,000 rental units, nearly 75 percent of which are in violation of state law. But even more alarming than its rapid growth is its gradual spreading from a few concentrated neighborhoods in Manhattan into minority communities throughout Brooklyn and Harlem that have been the hardest hit victims of the housing crisis.

In Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Lefferts Gardens, Sunset Park and Bushwick, more than 3,000 illegal Airbnb rentals are taking precious housing units away from our people in dire need of affordable housing. From 2006 to 2012, these same areas have all seen an increase in median rents of between 13 and 45 percent, making the pursuit of affordable housing an almost fruitless search.

Black and Latino neighborhoods in upper Manhattan have also faced the same housing crunch, as residents of Central Harlem, home to 400 illegal Airbnb units, have seen their median rent jump more than 20 percent during that same time period. Airbnb’s rapid growth in neighborhoods such as these, which have seen an explosion in rents, is exacerbating the housing crisis and is one of the factors that has unfortunately contributed to the gentrification of communities of color.

If these statistics don’t paint a clear enough picture of the challenges our communities face, the latest reports put an even finer point on the crisis. Accordingly to a new analysis by Governing magazine, seven of the top 10 most popular Airbnb locations for illegal hotel listings are considered to be the most gentrifying neighborhoods in New York City since 2000. In total, roughly 55 percent of all Airbnb illegal listings are located in the most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has made it a priority to reverse the housing crisis by expanding New York City’s affordable housing stock with an additional 200,000 units over the next 10 years. This is a laudable goal that will be a game changer to our communities, but we’re not going to reach that goal if the proliferation of illegal hotels continues to shrink our scarce affordable housing stock.

Airbnb claims to want to be a good corporate citizen, but its actions, or in this case its inactions—taking no responsibility for the illegal hotels it profits from and making no effort to remove serial lawbreakers—tell a different tale. Airbnb knows which of its users are illegal hotel kingpins and can immediately remove these violators who are robbing our neighborhoods of affordable housing units.

The future of our city depends on the availability of affordable housing. But until we can free our neighborhoods of the corrosive impact of illegal hotels, that future will remain more bleak than bright.

Submitted by

State Sen. Bill Perkins

State Sen. Adriano Espaillat

City Council Member Ritchie Torres

City Council Member Antonio Reynosot