Tom Kerr writing on free thinking

New York lawmakers this month took the extraordinary step of making it illegal for most people to even advertise an Airbnb rental.

That’s not just an attack on the shared economy….it effectively undermines free speech.

Plus, it flies in the face of what taxpayers want. A recent national survey revealed that more than 70 percent of all Americans support Airbnb.

They cited benefits including getting to know people from other places…making homes more affordable for hosts…and enhanced options for travel and tourism. The proof is in the pudding. The number of Airbnb bookings in New York City has grown more than 10-fold, in less than six years.

What I find especially irritating is the spin that lawmakers are putting on this legislation.

They want us to believe that the main thrust of the law is to protect the rights of tenants and to promote affordable housing. They claim to be addressing a legitimate problem, one that stems from a practice that Airbnb itself has offered to help lawmakers fix.

Let me explain…because this is critical to understanding the political witch hunt that is thinly-disguised within this new law.

In order to exploit the Airbnb business model, some unscrupulous apartment building owners have begun to evict responsible, law-abiding tenants. After kicking them to the curb, they convert their whole building into short-term rental units and charge dramatically more money. That kind of greedy practice puts the squeeze on local residents and their families.

Airbnb doesn’t like to see that happen…and neither do I.

I think it is wrong and should be stopped.

New York lawmakers say that’s exactly what this new law intends to do…but that’s a bold-faced lie, and here’s why:

In an official report on Airbnb published by the New York Attorney General, authorities admitted that “94 percent of Airbnb hosts offered, at most, two unique units.”

The real problem, the Attorney General acknowledged, was with the 6% minority who are classified as “commercial users.”

Fine those commercial culprits or shut them down, instead of harassing the thousands of legitimate, individual AirBnB hosts who are providing a valuable, much-appreciated service.

Let’s get real. Lawmakers aren’t trying to promote fair housing or clamp down on multimillion-dollar commercial businesses that are exploiting the Airbnb platform and ruining it for everyone else.

Airbnb even offered to help state regulators to police the wrongdoers, by setting up a stricter registration system for hosts and banning anyone who tries to advertise multiple listings within the same apartment building.

But lawmakers – whom Big Business is paying off – weren’t interested, because obviously they have an ulterior motive. Their real agenda is to eliminate independent alternatives like Airbnb – and Uber – that contribute to a free economy.

They want to stifle innovations that threaten to disrupt the kinds of corrupt, exploitive systems that Truth and Plenty wants to extricate you from…so that you can live life by your own set of rules.

Yeah, the news of this law is discouraging.

But experience has taught me that the truth – which will set us free – always triumphs in the end.

Image: ©iStock.com/OhmZ

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