Airbnb boss 'listening' to cities' housing concerns

Brian Chesky
Brian Chesky is boss of Airbnb, one of the world's biggest hospitality firms

The boss of short-let property rental firm Airbnb, Brian Chesky, denied the platform creates housing shortages in cities like New York.

The company is facing criticism that it also exacerbates rising rents in cities across America.

Mr Chesky denied that Airbnb has such an effect on cities like New York, which recently enacted rules prohibiting short-term rentals.

But he said "unintended consequences" can result from the firm's popularity.

"I think that one of the important pillars to understand is if you run a technology company and you put a tool or something in the hands of hundreds of millions of people, that unintended consequences will happen. So we're always trying to listen, understand if there's issues and adapt with cities", Mr Chesky said in an interview with the BBC.

Launched in 2007, Airbnb gained prominence as a darling of the nascent sharing economy. Now, the company offers more than seven million properties worldwide for stays through its booking platform.

Airbnb is adjusting to a new set of regulations in New York City that ban most stays under 30 days. The new rules require hosts to be present during a guest's stay, limit the total number of guests to two, and specify they must be able to access the entire place. To be in compliance with the rules, hosts have to register with the city's relevant authority.

The rules have effectively destroyed Airbnb's short-term offerings in the US's most populated city, and the company itself called it a "de facto ban." According to The New York Times, as many as 10,800 listings are likely affected.

Mr Chesky said that stays of 30 days or longer "was a meaningful percent of our business before the regulation would take place," and now comprises the company's primary offerings in New York. Additionally, Airbnb offers boutique hotel stays and owns the hotel-booking service HotelTonight.

However, Mr Chesky also points out that New York's loss can be other communities' gains, with bookings increasing in neighbouring towns in New Jersey and Connecticut.

"I think people are saying [that] they still want to come to New York. They want to afford to do it," Mr Chesky said. "Or you're going to see people traveling to other cities."

Whilst in New York City, Mr Chesky announced new features for Airbnb customers and hosts including "Guest Favorites," which denote the platform's highest-reviewed properties.

Two million of Airbnb's seven million listings made the cut. Reviews now contain more information about the type of traveller who visited and what kind of trip they made. He also announced a new listings tab that allows hosts to showcase the amenities in their properties, including a newly-built AI-powered photo tour.