What's the real story with Airbnb rentals, effect on affordability?

Is the large and growing Airbnb vacation rental industry overridingly harmful or mostly positive for New York City residents and the metro's economy?

Unsurprisingly, the answer to that query depends on who is being asked the question.

Here's Airbnb's take: Short-term rentals bring in legions of tourists who would otherwise be barred from entry by forbiddingly high hotel prices. As a result, the city rakes in billions of dollars that would otherwise be lost.

Moreover, says the company, most hosts are good actors and mom-and-pop operators who simply seek to legitimately augment their income via short-term stays by guests in their homes. The industry, contends Airbnb, is a win-win proposition for all involved.

That is a disingenuous and flatly false assessment, counters a wide-based and growing band of critics. Airbnb naysayers point to a recent university study to buttress their argument that the industry is actually dominated by large and bad-faith business interests. Those entities, they say, take a huge amount of housing off the market and collectively drive up rentals for most city residents.

Airbnb is all about "commercial operators illegally renting out entire apartments or buildings, at a cost to actual tenants," says one concerned state legislator.

One estimate posits that as many as 13,500 dwellings have been taken out of circulation within the past three years, and that the resulting scarcity has driven up average NYC rentals by nearly $400 a year as a result.

A study authored by the state's Attorney General's Office concluded that more than 70% of Airbnb rentals across the city do not comply with municipal and state laws.

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