Ever tried an Airbnb stay? I haven’t, even in all my travels, but I’ve considered it, and would avail myself if the housing matched the site where I was working. But around the country, the hotel industry is engaging in the Aristocracy of Pull to shut Airbnb down. Excerpt:
New York officials are on the job, protecting the world from the likes of Hank Freid and Tatiana Cames by slapping the two with a combined total of $17,000 in fines.
What threat to life, liberty, and property did this dastardly duo pose?
They were renting rooms to willing customers, the bastards. Fried and Cames were slapped for violating laws prohibiting apartment owners from renting rooms for less than 30 days if they’re not living on the premises, and a further law passed last year that banned advertising such rentals. It’s a direct strike at innovative home-sharing services like Airbnb and the people who use them that parallels similar attacks around the country.
“The law signed today will provide vital protections for New York tenants and help prevent the continued proliferation of illegal, unregulated hotels, and we will defend it,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) trumpeted last October.
Maybe I’m the suspicious type, but I think those “vital protections” Schneiderman refers to are against competition to the established old-school hotel industry. Just last summer, the Office of the New York State Comptroller fretted that the hotel business in New York City wasn’t doing as well as hoped. “Despite impressive gains, the average room rate (i.e., the average cost of renting a hotel room) has not yet reached its prerecession level” and, in fact, “room rates declined slightly in 2015.” This bums officials out, because “New York City collected a record $1.8 billion in tax revenue from the hotel industry in fiscal year 2015” and officials want to keep scooping up that revenue and maintain close, personal friendships with the people who generate that kind of cash.
Look carefully, True Believers, at that last bit. New York City wants to prevent homeowners from voluntarily leasing a portion of their home to willing short-term renters, in a purely voluntary transaction in which both parties realize a gain. Why?
Tax dollars. The City of New York, it seems, is of the opinion that those tax dollars are theirs by right, and that the Airbnb renters are defrauding them of their due. Why, it’s damned near medieval.
Incidentally, the same thing happens with the taxicab companies when they campaign against ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. They can’t compete in the open market, so they enlist government cronies to shut their competitors down with excessive regulations.
The only open and fair competition is in the open market, where business models succeed or fail for the only reason tolerable in a free society – because they succeeded or failed in attracting customers. President Trump has vowed to reduce business-killing regulations that add no value. He should look into this.