Another item in a long mounting pile of evidence as to why Airbnb isn’t all its cracked up to be: Many of the listings that claim to be wheelchair accessible are actually hazardous or impossible to navigate for disabled would-be short-term tenants.
Advocates for the disabled sent a letter to city authorities detailing several situations where apartment shares listed as wheelchair accessible were not so much, the New York Post reports. One supposedly accessible apartment in Noho features a metal ladder to a loft bed, which seems like a treacherous element for even an able-bodied person.
“What Airbnb is doing is unconscionable, dangerous and deceptive,” Edith Prentiss, a spokesperson for Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York, told the Post.
And crucially, it may be against the law. City regulations specify that “all private and public entities providing public accommodations to offer an equal opportunity for persons with a disability.” That’s one of the many city regulations that Airbnb’s informal network of apartment renters is violating. Last month, a report from the New York State Attorney General found that 72 percent of Airbnb rentals were illegal in one way or another. The biggest problem was landlords who had converted apartments for long-term tenants in faux hostels using Airbnb, a trend that threatened New York City’s already scant supple of affordable housing for residents.
So this shot from disability advocates may be part of a larger city campaign to gather enough strength to crack down on Airbnb. Rentals through the website aren’t required to pay a hotel tax, So far, De Blasio has mostly held back on enforcing the regulations that Airbnb renters are breaking. But last month, he slapped two landlords with an injunction after finding that they had converted units into short-term Airbnb housing. So is this more fodder for a brewing war on the apartment-sharing site? Only time and De Blasio will tell. But in the meantime, if you’re coming to New York and you want to make sure that your accomodations are wheelchair accessible, your best bet is still a hotel.