On Tuesday, the LIC Post reported that some residents who received units through the affordable housing lottery in a (SHoP-designed) Hunters Point South high-rise are renting out their units on Airbnb. Market rate tenants expressed righteous indignation, and poor-shamed their neighbors for “gaming the system.” In New York City, renting out your rented place on Airbnb is illegal, but is it really wrong?
A Hunters Point South Commons tenant named Nathalye listed her two bedroom apartment on the site for $50o per night, plus a service and cleaning fee. Two other units in the development’s two buildings were listed for rent, as well.
Designated affordable units in the Related Companies development range from $494 to $1,997 for a studio, and $743 to $4,346 for a three-bedroom, depending on household earnings.
The New York Post asked building resident Chris Dyer for his take on tenants renting out their affordable units: “they should be super grateful because so many people applied to try to get in, and they should not be taking advantage of the situation. I think those people should be held accountable and kicked out of their lease.”
Proponents of sites like Airbnb claim that the site fills an unmet need for less expensive accommodations in a city where the average hotel room costs $297 per night. Opponents note that Airbnb inflates housing costs in the long run and displaces lower-income residents.
It’s easy to invoke tropes of the “worthy poor” to shame affordable housing tenants who earn extra income through Airbnb. In May, Gothamist outlined the subsidies and incentives that this (mostly market rate) development received:
“While Related is not receiving 421-a subsidies for the Hunter’s Point South apartments, [the developer] told us that his company is benefiting from a ‘one-off’ deal, which includes a 40-year tax break agreement (details were not disclosed). As an affordable housing project, the project also got $185 million in tax-exempt bonds from Cuomo, $236 million in said bonds from the Housing Development Corporation, and $68 million in subsidies from Housing Preservation and Development.”
A full discussion of ethics and affordability is outside the scope of this short post. But, in a city that’s increasingly unaffordable for all but the very rich, it’s worth asking: are tenants in affordable units so very different from market rate neighbors units or homeowners using Airbnb to make a buck?