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Airbnb Cites 'Public Health' For Crackdown On New Year's Party Houses

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Airbnb is cracking down on so-called "party houses" this New Year's Eve.

The goal is to prevent large groups of people from using rentals to ring in 2021 and contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

"It is just absolutely critical to prioritize public health," said Chris Lehane, senior vice president for global policy and communications at Airbnb.

The company put a global ban on all parties and events at their rental listings back in August. Now, Airbnb has taken it a step further for New Year's Eve.

"If you're coming to Airbnb and you don't have a 5-star rating and you're seeking to do a one-night reservation on New Year's Eve, you're just not going to be able to do that," Lehane said.

Those who are able to book a house for tonight must confirm that they will not throw an unauthorized party and that they understand Airbnb could take legal action against them if they do.

"Hopefully not because of the policy but because people will be quarantining, you'll have less problems, but we'll see," said Arlington resident Dave Schwarte, who helped start the Texas Neighborhood Coalition to fight short-term rentals.

He says Airbnb's latest policy just puts a band aid on a much larger issue.

"It's inherent in the business model that when you inject strangers into a neighborhood and they have no interest or incentive to be a good neighbor, you will have serious problems, even if you don't have it at every short term rental," he said. "It's just one click away from a disaster."

Schwarte believes it's ultimately up to local governments to ban or regulate short-term rental companies like Airbnb.

The Arlington City Council passed an ordinance last year limiting them to the entertainment district.

"And I have to say, to the City of Arlington's credit, in my neighborhood it has worked," Schwarte said. "It has cleaned up the mess, so we're really grateful for that."

He's hopeful Airbnb will continue to take steps to prevent partying during the pandemic and beyond.

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