The number of apartments being used as pieds-à-terre and short-term vacation rentals in New York City has spiked by over 20,000 in the last three years, and such apartments now make up 2.1 percent of all housing in New York City, according to census data recently released by the city.
The number of apartments listed on the most recent Housing and Vacancy Survey as vacant because of "seasonal, recreational, or occasional use" is now 74,945. This is the highest since the Regional Plan Association started keeping track in 1991 and, as the group's director of community planning Moses Gates notes, more than enough to house the city's entire homeless population. A Department of Housing Preservation and Development spokesman says that the agency can't parse from the data how many of these 75,000 apartments are being rented out on sites like Airbnb versus how many are being used as pieds-à-terre, and indeed there may be some overlap. Still, it's clear that the gain of 69,000 newly built apartments since 2014 is dampened by the simultaneous removal from of nearly a third of that number of apartments the sales and traditional rental markets.
Gates argues that the numbers show the urgent need for the city to create a pied-à-terre tax, so that wealthy people have incentives to sell their apartments or rent them to full-time tenants rather than keeping them empty or occasionally renting them to tourists.
"You're taking housing off the market during a housing emergency," he says. "That should be good enough" for the city to take action. Pied-à-terre owners, he adds, are "not paying city income taxes, but you're using city services to protect your tax investment."