Airbnb is facing calls from three Democratic senators for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the impact companies like it are having on the real estate market. At the center of their concerns are worries that the short-term rental market is making housing more costly and more difficult to find.
“We are concerned that short-term rentals may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in our communities. We have also read troubling reports of racial discrimination on some short-term rental platforms,” the senators wrote in a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) all authored the letter in which they are calling on the FTC to launch an investigation.
The move on the part of the senators comes after the New York State attorney general came out with a report that alleged Airbnb turned apartments, in essence, into hotels. Based on subpoenaed documents, the New York State AG said that, although commercial property owners accounted for only 6 percent of the hosts on Airbnb in New York City, they earned 37 percent of the revenue, which suggests that renters could be getting displaced. In order for Congress to assess the impact services like Airbnb have on the housing market, the senators said in the letter to the FTC that it needs reliable data on the commercial use of these services. “We believe the FTC is best positioned to address this data gap in an unbiased manner, and we urge the commission to conduct a review of commercial operators on short-term rental platforms,” they wrote.
In June, the Senate in New York passed a bill that, if it gets the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo, would prohibit companies like Airbnb from advertising short-term rentals of homes on their websites. The aim is to make it illegal in New York for short-term rentals to be posted on Airbnb and other similar services’ websites.