Airbnb says opposing coalition is 'front' for hotel business

Airbnb is fighting back against a coalition that claims the site gobbles up cheap apartments, calling the group a front for the hospitality industry because it hasn’t tried to stop the spate of hotel conversions also exacerbating the housing crisis.

It’s a new tactic in the fight over Airbnb’s expansion in New York, where the online vacation rental site has run into serious regulatory issues in clashes with the Share Better coalition.

That coalition includes many city and state politicians, housing groups and the New York Hotel Trades Council union, and has repeatedly accused Airbnb of draining the city’s scarce supply of affordable housing.

Now Airbnb is trying to turn the tables.

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A group of Airbnb hosts, part of an Airbnb-sponsored push-back against critics, say that Share Better is a “front group” for the hotel industry, and is “notably silent when actual housing is being converted into hotels” in a letter to City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez delivered on Friday.

Mendez, a Democrat who reps the East Village, is part of the coalition and was targeted because she has criticized the conversion of five apartment buildings in her district into a 13-story hipster hotel which will lead to the loss of about 10 rent-regulated units.

In the letter, the hosts praise Mendez for opposing the hotel conversion, but question why Share Better is not part of the fight.

“Share Better continues to make all sorts of claims that vilify middle class New Yorkers like us, while failing to lift a finger to oppose the conversion,” wrote the hosts, who live in and around the East Village.

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A recent report sponsored in part by Airbnb found 773 residential units have been lost in New York City over the past six years because of hotel development.

But that’s nothing compared to what Airbnb has done to affordable housing, said City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, a leader in the coalition.

“Airbnb has stolen tens of thousands of affordable housing units and this transparent attempt to hide the fact that they are the chief culprit in the city’s housing crisis isn’t fooling anyone,” she said.

After the Daily News contacted New York Hotel Trades Council, it said it will oppose the East Village hotel conversion, but still hates Airbnb.

“A broken clock is right once a day, and even Airbnb is right on this one,” the labor group said in a statement.

“But unlike Airbnb, who is just paying lip service to the housing shortage, our union vigorously opposes any development in the city that subtracts critically needed affordable housing for our members and countless other New Yorkers,” the hotel council said.

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