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Affordable Housing Tenants Should be Penalized for Airbnb 'Abuse,' Pol Says

By Jeanmarie Evelly | November 20, 2015 4:08pm | Updated on November 23, 2015 8:42am
 A model bedroom at Hunters Point South Commons at 1-50 50th Avenue.
A model bedroom at Hunters Point South Commons at 1-50 50th Avenue.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

LONG ISLAND CITY — City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is looking to crack down on tenants in affordable housing who rent out their units on Airbnb, after ads were spotted on the lodging site offering stays at Hunters Point South for up to $500 a night.

More than 90,000 people applied last year to score one of 924 permanently affordable apartments at Hunters Point South, a complex with two affordable apartment buildings that boast waterfront views and a lush rooftop garden.

But some who were lucky enough to snag a home in the subsidized luxury buildings — selected via the city's housing lottery — were caught advertising their apartments on Airbnb, according to a report by the LIC Post.

The website says it spotted three ads for units in Hunters Point South on Airbnb, which have since been taken down. One posting was for a two-bedroom that cost more than $500 a night, according to the article.

In a statement, Van Bramer called the practice "appalling."

"More than 90,000 people applied for just over 900 apartments in this development, and now Airbnb is providing a platform that turns rental units into illegal hotels," the councilman said.

Short term leases and rentals are forbidden at Hunters Point South Living, a provision that's outlined in tenants' leases, according to Related Companies, the developer that built the complex.

"Related is committed to ensuring that all our residential units comply with the rent-stabilization laws and we, along with other landlords in New York City, have developed extensive procedures, protocols and training mechanisms to that end," the company said in a statement.

The developer said it has a "zero tolerance" policy for tenants violating rent-stabilization laws, and that any residents found to be doing so will have their leases terminated.

Related declined to say whether any tenants are being evicted due to the recent Airbnb listings.

In the wake of the postings, Van Bramer is calling on the city to specifically investigate "illegal hotel uses" in rent controlled and rent stabilized buildings.

He said he also plans to draft legislation that would establish penalties for city-subsidized renters who are caught violating the rules.

"This city is in the midst of a serious housing crisis, and there are many of us who are working diligently to use all available tools to create affordable housing," he said.

"It is to the detriment of everything we attempt to accomplish for everyday New Yorkers when Airbnb refused to play by the rules just to make a quick buck," he added, referring to the company's lack of enforcement.

An Airbnb spokesman said the site has no current listings from Hunters Point South.

It's not the first time the site has gotten tenants in trouble: co-op owners at a Mitchell-Lama building in Greenwich Village were found to be illegally renting out their homes this summer on Airbnb.

City officials said illegal hotel complaints were up 62 percent last year thanks to the site and others like it.