Last week, our community got some great news in New York when an appeals board reversed a fine against Airbnb host Nigel Warren. The decision was great not just for Nigel, but for the 225,000 Airbnb community members in New York.
In the wake of this victory, I received a plethora of questions about Airbnb and New York. I want to take this opportunity to tell everyone a little more about who our community is, what we stand for, and how Airbnb and New York can work together to make this great city even stronger.
If you want to understand Airbnb, you have to understand our beginnings. Our story started with a problem that those struggling financially know well. In October of 2007, my roommate Joe Gebbia and I were living in a San Francisco apartment, and we couldn’t afford rent. That weekend, an international design conference was coming to town, and all of the hotels were sold out. So we had an idea: why not turn our place into a bed and breakfast for the conference? We inflated air beds and called it the AirBed & Breakfast.
From that first airbed, Airbnb grew person to person, block by block, city by city. Today, our community is in 34,000 cities in 192 countries. This idea is about much more than just making ends meet. At Airbnb, we are creating a door to an open world—where everyone’s at home and can belong, anywhere.
This is not a new idea. When I told my late grandfather about this, he said, “Of course! That’s how I traveled when I was a kid.” Airbnb is the new, old way to travel. Decades ago, travelers stayed in boarding homes, neighbors shared what they had, and ordinary people powered the economy. These activities are re-emerging through a new movement called the sharing economy, where everyone can participate.
In New York, our 15,000 hosts are regular people from all five boroughs. Eighty-seven percent of them rent the homes in which they live. On average, they are at the median income level and more than half of them depend on Airbnb to help them stay in their home. From Harlem to Greenpoint, Staten Island to Nolita, 87 percent of our hosts live outside of the midtown-Manhattan hotel district. They are teachers, artists, students, and retirees who love doing this.
They include hosts like Teya, a student who loves cooking for her guests and will use the money she has earned on Airbnb to buy her apartment in Harlem. Or Javier from Brooklyn, who works in the restaurant business and likes to show off his favorite Latin dance spots to travelers from every corner of the globe. And hosts like Lauren and her husband who are using the money they earn on Airbnb to pay off their student loans.
We all agree that illegal hotels are bad for New York, but that is not our community. Our community is made up of thousands of amazing people with kind hearts. When Hurricane Sandy struck in late 2012, our hosts opened 1,400 homes to stranded evacuees. They didn’t provide just a place to stay: they personally connected with victims and offered comfort and support in a time of need.
While our guests and hosts have already made a substantial positive contribution, this is just the beginning. We imagine a more accessible New York that even more people can afford to visit, where extra space in people’s homes will not go to waste, and where millions of visitors patronize neighborhood small businesses across all five boroughs. This will be a city where tens of thousand of jobs for people like photographers, tour guides, and chefs will be created to support this thriving new ecosystem.
Other cities like Seoul, Amsterdam and Hamburg have already embraced this vision and the sharing economy. New York can do the same.
On behalf of our New York City community, we want to work for sensible laws that allow New Yorkers to share their space, earn extra income, and pursue their American Dream. And we want to work with New York to pass laws that meet three fundamental principles:
- We believe regular people renting out their own homes should be able to do so, and we need a new law that makes this clear.
- Our hosts are not hotels, but we believe that it makes sense for our community to pay occupancy tax, with limited exemptions for those who earn under certain thresholds. We would like to assist New York City in streamlining this process so that it is not onerous.
- We are eager to work with New York to remove bad actors in our community that are causing a disturbance to their neighbors, and will create a 24/7 Neighbor Hotline where we will service the complaints.
We want to help New Yorkers share the city they love with the people of the world. We hope you’ll join the 225,000 people in the Airbnb community to create a New York that embraces the sharing economy and is stronger for everyone.