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Growth of Airbnb in NYC Continues to Cause Controversy

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TWC News: Growth of Airbnb in NYC Continues to Cause Controversy
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An increasing number of tourists are leaving traditional hotels behind and instead using the website Airbnb, which allows people to rent directly from residents, to find a place to stay, causing significant controversy in New York City. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

Tired of traditional hotels, NYC visitors may want to check in to Airbnb.

"What this is really about is your neighbor, your friends, your family, renting out their own home a couple of weeks a year," said David Hantman of Airbnb.

The problem is, using an entire apartment as a hotel room in a large building is illegal.

"They're just making a whole lot of money and claiming this is good for everyone," said state Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan.

"Well, there's been a lot of noise about Airbnb in the press, and we wanted to make sure the true story gets told," Hantman said.

The site is ramping up a publicity campaign, like one ad that features hosts renting out their homes after Hurricane Sandy.

This touches a nerve with opponents. For one, the state attorney general is going after the site, targeting hosts that are illegally renting apartments. Now, affordable housing advocates and the hotel lobby are teaming up to argue that the site is taking away affordable housing.

"They're out to undo our rent regulation system," said Jaron Benjamin of the Met Council on Housing.

They point to buildings where they say tenants have been pushed out and apartments are allegedly used as hotel rooms, snatched up by tourists online.

On Thursday morning, NY1 saw Argentinean visitors leave the building.

Gross: Where did you find the apartment?
Tourist: An internet site. Airbnb.

A spokesman for Airbnb said the site had no listings at the Madison Avenue address for the past several weeks.

There may be some bad actors on the site, but Airbnb officials said what it's really about is giving tourists an authentic New York experience, like in Flatbush.

Shelley Worrell has been an Airbnb host for about a year and a half.

"Rather than being in a hotel or being stuck in Midtown, you're actually in a neighborhood where you're going to go to local coffee shops, you're going to go to local supermarkets," she said.

Whether in Brooklyn or Midtown, this controversy doesn't appear to be checking out anytime soon.

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