Public Advocate Letitia James Blames Airbnb for Brooklyn’s Affordable Housing Emergency

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If you’re a frequent reader of this site, you may have picked up on a theme: Brooklyn housing prices are skyrocketing, forcing people out of neighborhoods. Letitia Jams, Public Advocate and former Brooklyn City Councilman, has written a scathing letter to the CEO of Airbnb blaming the company for escalating the affordable housing shortage to emergency levels. “By helping turn a portion of our scarce housing supply into short-term rentals, Airbnb and the illegal hotel operators it enables are contributing to the crisis,” James wrote.

James cites a recent study that notes that the median rent in Brooklyn was $2,858 in October of this year, up six percent from 2013, and that almost a fourth of the 8,000 Airbnb units available are in Bed-Stuy, Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Fort Greene, all neighborhoods that have seen enormous rent hikes in the last five years. In the letter, obtained by Bedford + Bowery, James also points the finger at Airbnb for aiding the process of evicting people of color from their homes.

“Another unintended consequence we have seen is that increasing rents coupled with Airbnb growth in neighborhoods where affordable housing is scarce has led to a gentrification of communities of color,” James wrote. “Long-time residents and local small businesses that can no longer afford the high rent costs are being driven from their neighborhoods, replaced by transient guests and big chain stores.”

James closes by praising Mayor de Blasio for beginning to take action against Airbnb, and urging the CEO to do an internal crackdown of “illegal hotel kingpins” who are shifting apartments into unlicensed hotels. “Airbnb must do a diligent job of self-policing,” James warns, in order to “stop the hemorrhaging of our city’s affordable housing and rent-protected units.”