The City Council hopes to pump up a task force targeting illegal home rentals—a move that could deflate Airbnb.
Speaker Corey Johnson's response to Mayor Bill de Blasio's budget proposal calls for injecting an additional $2 million into the Office of Special Enforcement, an investigations unit that conjoins half a dozen city agencies and often enforces state statutes barring transient occupancy. Johnson's request would bring the team's budget to $6.8 million and could enlarge its staff to 47 employees from 27.
"The increase could add approximately 20 new staff and allow OSE to take a more proactive approach to enforcement," the document, released last week, states.
In most cases, state law requires that a permanent occupant remain on-site whenever paying guests stay in an apartment or house for fewer than 30 days. The state also passed a law in 2016 outlawing the advertising of arrangements that would violate this rule. Both have dug into the business of booking site Airbnb, though the San Francisco–based tech giant has said it works hard to keep its listings and rentals in compliance.
The council's redoubled effort against scofflaw rentals comes in the wake of a hotel industry–funded mail and TV advertising offensive slamming Airbnb for allegedly putting upward pressure on rents. It also follows a zealous campaign by the Hotel Trades Council—the union representing traditional hospitality workers—to elect council members supportive of Johnson's speaker candidacy and to lobby the Bronx and Queens Democratic machines on his behalf.