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Study: Airbnb 'Ghost Hotels' Illegal, Driving Up Rents On NYC Apartments

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A report paid for by the Hotel Trades Council, a union of hotel workers, is highly critical of Airbnb operating in New York City.

Reseachers at McGill University in Montreal found that the vacation rental company is driving up rental prices and reducing housing availability in the city due to so-called "ghost units" not made available to local New Yorkers.

The report says in the past 3 years, from 7,000 to 13,5000 housing units have been removed from circulation and median rent in the city increased by $380 a year.

Other highlights from the study noted:

* Two-thirds of revenue came from likely illegal listings.

* About 4,700 private room listings comprise many rooms in a single apartment.

* Nearly 75 percent of the population in neighborhoods at highest risk of Airbnb-induced gentrification across New York are non-white.

Airbnb dismissed the study as flawed and said Airbnb is used by everyday New Yorkers to temporarily rent space to make extra money.

In a statement Airbnb Head of Northeast Policy Josh Meltzer said: "Although inconvenient for this author's anti-home sharing bias, Airbnb supports legislation that would restrict home sharing to one single home, which would finally allow enforcement to focus on illegal hotel operators while protecting regular New Yorkers who are trying to make some extra money to live in a city that gets more expensive by the year. The comprehensive legislation being considered in Albany would protect public safety and target bad actors operating illegal hotels, while allowing responsible hosts to continue to share their primary home."

Previously, Airbnb hosts in New York City claimed the city was colluding with opposition groups to spy on their properties using "undercover renters" using the service.

"Home-sharing is perfectly legal in NYC when hosts follow the laws," said New York City's Office of Special Enforcement. "(Our department) is focused on taking action against owners that take housing off the market, create dangerous conditions or adversely affect the livability of a neighborhood or building.

"The City has repeatedly asked Airbnb, to share data to help us enforce the law which they have refused to do," the office said in a statement.

New York State has some of the nation's toughest restrictions on Airbnb. Last October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a measure authorizing fines of up to $1,000 for many short-term rentals. The measure applies to rentals of less than 30 days when the owner or tenant is not present.

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