Data provider AirDNA issues cease and desist to Stringer

A data company involved with Airbnb’s dispute with Comptroller Scott Stringer has issued a cease and desist letter to his office for alleged misuse of information.
Photo by Eric Risberg/AP
By Mark Hallum

City Comptroller Scott Stringer is holding his ground after data provider AirDNA issued a cease-and-desist letter to his office claiming his report on the economic impact of the room-sharing app Airbnb improperly used their data.

AirDNA is now calling for the comptroller to retract the report, which accused Airbnb of being responsible for the affordability crisis in the city and cited a negative impact on neighborhoods in Queens.

“We stand by the integrity of our report, which is consistent with studies done in other jurisdictions, that Airbnb has an impact on rent levels,” a spokeswoman for Stringer said.

But AirDNA contended that Stringer’s office did not obtain permission to uthe data, violating their terms of service and not getting the “full granularity” of the information available from the company.

“In short, the comptroller’s report is nothing more than hotel propaganda released under the guise of economic research,” the letter said. “The comptroller also violated AirDNA’s terms of service, which limits the use of AirDNA data to “personal, non-commercial use” unless a specific license is obtained.

The report by Stringer claimed New York City renters paid an additional $616 million in 2016 because of Airbnb’s practices, making the affordability crisis even worse.

According to Stringer’s report, rent in Long Island City and Astoria saw an increase of $20,092,964 throughout 2016 attributed to Airbnb; the cost to Sunnyside and Woodside was $9,431,814; Forest Hills and Rego Park were hit by $4,088,401; and Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights saw a combined effect of about $5,285,274, while northeast Queens neighborhoods faced a rise of about $4,104,914.

The week prior to the cease-and-desist letter being issued there was a shouting match between Stringer and Airbnb, with the city official calling for full data transparency from the short-term rental company.

Airbnb’s head of global policy, Chris Lehane, claimed in a May 7 press conference call that the numbers in the report were misrepresented with no evidence indicating the company had any “material impact” on renters citywide, a message that was supported by AirDNA.

“It may be the case that the comptroller was simply misled, bamboozled, duped, by whoever provided him the data,” Lehane said.

Lehane said the comptroller operated on the assumption that entire units were being rented all year around and that people are only using spaces within their homes to accommodate guests as opposed to renting the entire unit or whole homes in compliance with Airbnb’s one host, one home policy.

“Airbnb’s high-priced lobbyists are doing what they always do when confronted with facts they don’t like, which is hold press conferences to try and smear those who dare to question the company’s impact on cities,” Stringer said in response to Lehane.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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