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Op-ed: Don’t make travel to NYC even less affordable — legalize short-term rentals

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I moved to New York City in 1980 and the biggest problem I encountered was the lack of affordable housing, even back then. Four years later, I was priced out of Manhattan and chose to move to Queens.

While I changed boroughs because of skyrocketing rent prices, I fell in love with my neighborhood. There is no area more diverse in the world than Queens. From the local restaurants to the unparalleled boutiques, each small business is unique and special in its own way. This is why in 1998 I made the decision to purchase a small mother/daughter house in Queens. It was my dream to be a homeowner and this house would be an investment in my family’s future.

When I neared retirement in 2015, I realized that I could not live off of my social security and pension. So I fixed up the first floor apartment of my home and listed it on Airbnb as a short-term rental.

My introduction to the platform was through traveling with my family. One hotel room with two beds was inadequate for our needs and yet we could not afford two rooms. Airbnb offered comfortable, home-like accommodations that could fit our entire family at a fraction of the price. Yes, we would be without some amenities, but what mattered was that we were able to take a trip together as a family.

As a host, I’ve become very passionate about hospitality and giving my guests the best possible experience, like I had gotten years ago with my family. I am proud to share my home with New York’s visitors and show new people around the borough. My guests come from around the world to spend their money in New York. They shop in our grocery stores, eat in our restaurants, go to our shops and use our transit system.

Our local government should be celebrating short-term renters, not trying to keep them out, but new legislation threatens to do just that. An ambiguous and arbitrary bill that’s currently being considered by the City Council would limit the number of guests to two people, when visits to my home typically consist of families made up of three or four people. Airbnb was a way for families to travel affordably and this bill would make our city even less accessible to lower income visitors. Do they regulate hotels to that number of guests? The answer is likely no.

These regulations would strike a significant blow to tourism outside of Manhattan and the traditional tourism districts. Just when people have started to book travel to New York City again, we risk locking them out.

For me personally, these rules would be devastating. While Airbnb might be supplemental income for some, it is my ONLY source of income. If I lose my ability to rent on Airbnb, I won’t be able to pay my mortgage and I will lose my home. I am 72 years old and I don’t have anywhere else to go. Airbnb is the only reason I am able to stay in my home.

I know I am not the only older New Yorker who relies on short-term renters to stay in their home. Were our local government to concentrate more on assisting those of us on fixed incomes and less on unnecessary regulation, maybe this wouldn’t be the case. Judging by current events, they would rather work towards helping the hotel industry than our city’s most vulnerable.

If the New York City Council cares about our city’s seniors, homeowners or the local economy, then they will stop this bill from becoming the law. There is still time to do what is right for real New Yorkers.

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