Airbnb hosts protest hotel association’s fight against short-term rentals

Airbnb hosts gathered outside the InterContinental Hotel in Midtown on Monday to protest the ReformBnB conference.

The conference, subtitled “Winning the Fight Against Short-Term Lets,” was organized by the Hotel Association of New York City, and brought together industry representatives and academics from several countries involved with urban planning. According to its website, the event aimed to forge “global connections between hotel associations working on this topic,” and advocate for "common sense rules on the [short-term rental] industry.”

Airbnb faces strong opposition from the hotel industry. The company also supports legislation  to regulate the service. In New York, Airbnb is campaigning for bill A.7520, which is currently awaiting committee approval  in the State Assembly. The bill would regulate and authorize short-term rental units, and would require registration of apartments that are rented through Airbnb.  

On Monday, protesters outside the hotel chanted, “Support hosts, not hotels,” “Be fair, let us share” and “Sharing is caring.” For many of the hosts present, the money they make through Airbnb is a significant  part of their income.

Lee Thomas Jr. has been hosting for eight years. As head of the Queens Host Club for Airbnb, he decided to join after losing his job in the financial district on 9/11 and being diagnosed with cancer.

“You work hard for your home, you pay your taxes, and I don’t think it’s fair that people can tell you what you can or cannot do with your own home,” Thomas said. “We want to let the hotel industry know that we are here and we are not going anywhere, and that we will continue to fight for common sense rules and regulations.”

Briyah Paley, 35, has been renting her apartment in East Elmhurst, Queens, for one year.

“I was having a hard time finding work. I needed the income, and I also loved the idea of meeting new people from around the world,” Paley said. “I want people to hear our voice. We’re just trying to survive in the city and make ends meet.”  

For Saint Bertrand, an Airbnb host in East Harlem, the protest was an opportunity to raise awareness. “This is not a hotel-based industry, or even a service-based industry. It’s a community. Hopefully we won’t have so many unjust laws that will eventually affect guests,” Bertrand said. “The thing is, people that stay at Airbnbs don’t stay at hotels, and people that stay at hotels don’t stay at Airbnbs.”