We are retired Staten Islanders and have lived in our condo for decades. It’s our home. It’s hard for many people to live on retirement income, and the recession made it even more difficult for us to make ends meet.
To keep up with mortgage payments, both of us tried to make extra money, and we conserved what we had by living simply. Two years ago, we learned about Airbnb and wanted to use the site to supplement our income. We listed a room in our Graniteville condo with low expectations, but nothing could have prepared us for the wonderful experiences we would have.
From our first rental — to a Canadian couple with whom we became friends — it was clear that Airbnb was going to help us make some extra bucks. We recently hosted a European couple unfamiliar with the city and its nightlife. Since they enjoyed jazz, Rimma suggested amateur night at The Apollo Theater, and offered to join them. We met them before the show and spent the next few hours getting to know each other while taking in the sounds of New York City.
Several months earlier, we were contacted by a French couple who had their 1966 Volkswagen shipped from France to New Jersey and needed a place to stay for a couple of nights before picking it up. We also drove them to the pier and wished them well on their travels. Since then, we follow their blog as they travel the world, and we regularly receive notes of gratitude scribbled on postcards.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is trying to collect the personal information on people like us who use Airbnb, as part of a statewide probe of New Yorkers who rent space in their homes.
He should listen to more stories like ours, so he can learn about how Airbnb is making life more affordable and vibrant for middle-class retirees. We also hope that lawmakers will allow rentals like ours so that more New Yorkers will have the opportunity to open their doors to visitors from across the world.
Airbnb has given us the means to stay afloat financially, and opportunities for new friendships with people we otherwise would have never met. Starting with our first rental, we have made enough to stay in our home, and now we can help others stay there, too.
Jim and Rimma Kennedy live on Staten Island.