Following in the footsteps of Boston and other large, liberal cities, the Big Apple is taking aim at the gig economy once again. Mayor Bill de Blasio has just taken yet another swing at Airbnb hosts and is preparing another whack at Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing companies. What the Mayor describes as new regulations to ensure “fairness” actually works out to be a sop to powerful lobbying groups and a penalty for lower-income residents of the city.
Mayor de Blasio signed Monday a bill that will crack down on Airbnb’s operations New York City.
The action came just days before the City Council is slated to vote on a measure that would limit the number of cars driving for Uber and similar companies.
The moves have some concerned about the message the city is sending to its burgeoning tech industry.
“Do I think these two bills alone are going to drive potential entrepreneurs out of New York City? No,” Julie Samuels, executive director of Tech:NYC, an advocacy group for the tech sector, said. “That said, if this is the beginning of a trend, then yeah, that could happen — and that’s why it’s troubling.”
The crazy part is that people like Julie Samuels (quoted above) are treating this as some sort of attack on the tech sector. That may be a secondary effect over the long run, but this attitude from City Hall is actually an attack on working-class residents. Rents are stupidly high and people can barely afford to live in the city as it is. Anyone with an extra bed or spare room that they can rent out has the option of making some cash on the side to make ends meet. But the city wants to shut that opportunity down.
The move against Airbnb will seek to force the company to turn over its list of all hosts listing rentals in the five boroughs. This information will be given to “the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement” (a name which should cause a shudder to run down your spine) which will then levy heavy fines on hosts renting a room or bed for any period shorter than 30 days. The “fairness” concept goes right out the window when you learn that this legislation was actually pushed by the Hotel Trades Council, the powerful union representing the hotel industry, along with their lobbyists. They donate heavily to Democrats in New York and don’t like the competition brought by Airbnb.
The next measure coming up after this is a move to put a cap on the number of people who can drive for Uber and Lyft. This is similarly a sop to the taxi companies, their unions and the lobbyists who fund Democratic political campaigns. And just as with the Airbnb maneuver, it’s a blow to people who own a car and want to make some extra money by offering rides in one of the most expensive places to live on the planet.
Can anything be done to stop this trend? Possibly, but it would require the gig economy companies to take these issues to court and somehow find a judge in this district with a lick of common sense. Good luck with that.