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Airbnb offers concessions to regulators as new law looms in New York

The peace offering is a major retreat from the Silicon Valley startup

Airbnb is making a last-minute attempt to appease regulators in anticipation of pending legislation. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is currently contemplating a bill that would make it illegal for landlords to list their empty homes or apartment on the home-sharing site for less than 30 days. The bill was passed by the New York State Senate earlier in June, and the governor is due to make the final decision on its fate by October 29th.

Airbnb's proposed policy would limit hosts from making more than one listing. According to TechCrunch, the proposal aims to weed out property owners who opt to list multiple properties on Airbnb, making them unavailable to those seeking permanent housing. Housing activists have repeatedly said that this practice drives up the already high rents across New York City and reduces the supply of affordable housing.

The policy was initially announced by Chris Lehane, Airbnb's global head of public policy, in an op-ed for the New York Daily News. Expressing a need to change outdated laws (he referred to the transition from "a-horse-and-buggy era to automobiles"), Lehane wrote that the proposed policies embraced "responsible home sharing" and "not only help New Yorkers who share their homes to pay the bills, but support small businesses in neighborhoods far outside traditional tourist zones like Midtown Manhattan."

Airbnb argued that their proposal promotes "responsible home sharing"

Lehane also suggests that New York State should implement a "streamlined" system where hosts are required to register. Hosts would be required to provide insurance. Airbnb also sought permission to collect and remit taxes on behalf of its hosts.

Airbnb has tussled with with regulators in many markets. In New York, the company declared that it would sue the state if Cuomo signed off on the bill. In San Francisco, Airbnb took legal action against the city for introducing a law that required the company to report unregistered hosts or pay a $1,000 fine. In May this year, Berlin prohibited hosts from renting out entire apartments.

State Senator Liz Krueger and assembly member Linda Rosenthal called today's proposal for self-regulation a "PR stunt." Despite Lehane's conciliatory language and effort to align Airbnb's aims with what it believes are the best interests of those living in the Empire State, it appears that the ongoing fight with regulators is likely to continue.