Oops: Report That Attacked Airbnb Wildly Overstated Numbers

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, May 10th, 2018, 11:57 PM PERMALINK

If there is one public official that is supposed to be good with numbers, it would be the comptroller.

So there really is no excuse for New York City’s Comptroller, Scott Stringer, to issue a widely-covered report on homesharing sites (primarily Airbnb) that completely misrepresents data intended to show their impact on rent prices.

The report purports to show that Airbnb drove up rent prices by $616 million in 2016, among other findings. Which seems unlikely on its face given homesharing touches a small fraction of the housing supply.

The report claimed up to 13,500 units are removed from the rental market because of Airbnb. Even the high point of that estimate is just 0.6 percent of the rental housing supply in New York City.

The report also focuses on popular neighborhoods, specifically those that have gained popularity more recently. Clearly there are larger trends driving up rent in these neighborhoods.

Most shocking is the revelation that the Comptroller’s findings made a hash of the underlying data from AirDNA. The site countered the Comptroller report, indicating that instead of 10% of homes being taken off the rental market, it’s more like 0.2% (via CNET’s Dara Kerr):

““At no point did the comptroller contact AirDNA to ask for guidance or our professional expertise on how to read the data, leading to several crucial errors in his interpretation of the numbers,” Abigail Long, the spokeswoman, said in a statement.”

So, the Comptroller was off by a factor of 50. Just a bit outside… But instead of owning up to potential errors, his office attacked AirDNA’s motivations. Meanwhile, the hotel interests behind the ShareBetter campaign to destroy Airbnb contribute significantly to city politicians.

Yet, they still struggle to find real evidence of any problem with homesharing, while they completely ignore benefits like the economic activity being sparked in outer boroughs.

Airbnb is next-to-outlawed in New York City, with rentals under 30 days banned and violators subject to massive fines.

The city even has a crack squad of investigators who can hand summonses even to law-abiding hosts that then cost them thousands in legal fees to fight.

The Comptroller has released plenty of good reports in the past on a variety of topics, but in this case he's doubled down on an outrageous error that serves narrow special interests, not the public interest.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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