NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some tenants of a Queens luxury building won the affordable housing lottery and have their rents subsidized by taxpayers, and now, they have been caught listing their apartments on Airbnb.
As CBS2’s Sonia Rincon reported, more than 90,000 people applied for the lottery to live in the Long Island City rent-stabilized building for several income levels. Fewer than 1,000 got in.
“I hit the jackpot when I moved here,” said James Edstrom.
And Edstrom could not believe some of his neighbors at Hunters Point South would advertise their affordable apartments on Airbnb for up to $500 a night.
“When you do something like that — when you’re renting your apartment like that — you’re bringing up the prices in New York City,” Edstrom said. “You’re lowering the housing stock in New York City.”
In this case, the Airbnb posters were also breaking the law and putting their leases in jeopardy.
The landlord, Related Companies, made them take the listings down — saying it has a zero tolerance policy and “…any residents found to be in violation of the rent-stabilization laws will immediately have their leases terminated.”
CBS2 spoke with a couple who had one of the Airbnb listings. They wouldn’t speak on camera, but they said they do live in the building and they never actually rented out the apartment.
They said like many New Yorkers, they were hoping to make some extra money around the holidays when they went away for Thanksgiving. They say further that they cooperated and removed the listing and have learned their lesson.
“It is so outrageous and such a violation of the spirit of this,” said Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-26th). “Those folks who are still out there looking for affordable an affordable unit are rightly angry.”
Van Bramer, who represents the neighborhood, said many more subsidized buildings with great skyline views are coming.
“We are not going to ever use taxpayer dollars to allow someone to falsely get in to an affordable housing complex and then turn it around and try and flip it for their own profit,” Van Bramer said.
Some neighbors in the building wondered if anything could be done to prevent people from taking advantage.
“Does anyone want transient people living next to them? No. But can you stop it? No,” said Bruce Barlin. “(It’s) human nature. You’re going to try to make the buck if you can.”
Most of the neighbors are recent arrivals, and said the doormen are getting to know their faces.
“So they should be able to spot anybody who doesn’t really belong,” said resident Michael Madej.
Van Bramer said landlords and the city need to make sure it doesn’t happen.
“And Airbnb should know better than to allow this to go up on their website,” the councilman said.
Airbnb said it advises its hosts to follow local laws.
Van Bramer told CBS2 he has introduced a bill that would establish penalties for tenants who illegally sublet their rent-regulated apartments for a profit.