There are a lot of justifiable reasons to take issue with home-rental platforms like airbnb: “Mega hosts” who are renting out dozens — maybe hundreds — of listings without being subject to hotel taxes or regulations; hosts who will turn just about any vaguely inhabitable space into a rental property; and allegations that airbnb fails to properly vet hosts. But one anti-airbnb hotel group has gone a step further, using incidents of real human tragedy to try to create a false link between airbnb and terrorism.
Renting rooms to terrorists?
An ad campaign sponsored by a trade group of New York City hotels and two unions that represent hotel workers aims to connect short-term rentals on Airbnb with short-term housing for terrorists. The ads air on various cable channels, including news programs and Mets and Yankees games, and are meant to make New Yorkers wonder who their neighbors could be renting to.
The video cites a recent terror attack in its attempt to link airbnb to public safety: The May 22 bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK. The bomber in that incident was indeed staying in a short-term rental rented through a local agency, and reportedly received large packages during his time there.
However, the terrorist in Manchester was not in any way connected to airbnb.
Find rentals, then shut ’em down
The hotel group implies that airbnb rentals are similar, and this means that law enforcement should know the addresses of properties that are rented out. The ads seem to sort of support a bill before the state Assembly that would require all rentals on airbnb and similar sites to put their complete addresses on their listings. That’s not directly related to terrorism, but would let law enforcement connect possible illegal rentals with actual addresses.
The bill’s sponsor says that it’s to ensure that hosts are following their local rules, which means narrowing down which borough, county, or town a rental is in.
“It’s crucial that enforcement agencies have access to address information to ensure that airbnb and other short-term rentals comply with the laws designed to protect affordable housing, and the safety of residents, guests and communities,” Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan told the Daily News.
About those ads, though
An airbnb spokesman pointed out one obvious problem with the ads to the New York Daily News: There are no known terrorists who have stayed in lodgings rented through airbnb. The 9/11 hijackers stayed in hotels, as did the terrorists who attacked Paris in 2015. Staying somewhere without anyone knowing where you are has historically been hotels’ thing.
Naturally, airbnb has already fired back with an ad of its own featuring a likable family of hosts in Brooklyn who have used the extra income to make their lives better. The ad condemns the group’s scare tactics, but doesn’t say anything about terrorists staying in hotels.