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Airbnb offers homeowners a lifeline

By Lee Thomas

No one plans on dealing with illness—it just happens. When I developed cancer from working near the World Trade Center in the four years after the September 11 attacks, I did not have a plan for paying the exorbitant medical bills that racked up despite my solid health insurance.

I saved myself from financial ruin by hosting on Airbnb. It was the bridge that got me through my fight with cancer without losing my home. So as government officials consider how to regulate home sharing, I hope they remember those of us who rely on Airbnb to weather difficult times and work with us on solutions.

About 13 years ago, I bought my home in Ozone Park. It has a cottage that I used when family and friends visited.

I was a Wall Street executive for many years. I am proud of my hard work and feel so lucky to have been compensated well. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I continued working near Ground Zero. I was exposed to the toxic air and unfortunately developed cancer. The Affordable Care Act was seven years from becoming law and my health plan was insufficient to cover my bills.

I got a crash course in the cost of medical care. What I learned is that it is so expensive that no matter how successful or hard-working you are, and no matter how big your nest egg or rainy day fund is, you are one illness away from total financial disaster.

I found my way back to financial stability through Airbnb. I listed my guest apartment for short term stays as a stopgap and safety net. It was how I survived my illness without losing my house and falling into poverty.

I’m happy to say that my health is better now, but I’m still hosting on Airbnb because I love sharing my home and our city with people who want to visit New York.

For many hosts, Airbnb is how we bridge difficult times and make it here. The small amount of income we earn gives us stability and allows us to stay in our homes through periods of hardship.

I hope our elected officials keep this in mind and craft fair laws that make it possible for every New Yorker to share the home in which they live.

Lee Thomas

Ozone Park

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