Jul 13, 2017

NYC's cottage industry of hunting Airbnb scofflaws

AirBnb

New York City has an Office of Special Enforcement that spends 95% of its time investigating rentals for possible violation of state and local laws — many of which are arranged on websites like AirBnb, Bloomberg reports. And the hotel industry and labor groups are only too eager to help, hiring their own private investigators to rat out AirBnb hosts who flout a ban on short-term sublets.

Why it matters: These self-styled rental vigilantes are just one example of how incumbent industries are leveraging state and local regulators to resist competition from online upstarts and emergent technologies. In other cases, taxi interests have helped ban Uber in places like Nevada, and utilities have worked to stop the spread of rooftop solar panels for residential real estate.

Are these tactics legitimate? The anti-solar campaigns by utilities appear to be naked attempts to buy protection from competition from regulators, but other such efforts seem to have more merit. As the Yale Law & Policy Review puts it, "The short-term rental sector, for example, thrives in the shadow of land-use regulation that . . . restricts supply, drives up costs, and segregates housing from employment and amenities."

  • In other words, a company like Airbnb profits by offering suppliers and customers a way to avoid onerous regulation. In some cases, they force a public discussion about the legitimacy of commercial regulations.

All politics is local: There will be no uniform solution. Along with other hot-button issues like police reform and educational access, this debate will unfold differently in different corners of the U.S. and the world.

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 782,319 — Total deaths: 37,582 — Total recoveries: 164,565.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 161,807 — Total deaths: 2,953 — Total recoveries: 5,595.
  3. Federal government latest: The White House will extend its social distancing guidelines until April 30.
  4. State updates: Rural-state governors say testing is still inadequate, contradicting Trump — Virginia, Maryland and D.C. issue stay-at-home orders to residents, joining 28 other states.
  5. Business latest: Ford and General Electric aim to make 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.
  6. In photos: Navy hospital ship arrives in Manhattan.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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First U.S. service member dies from coronavirus

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

The Pentagon on Monday announced the death of a member of the New Jersey National Guard who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It's the first U.S. service member — active, reserve or Guard — to die from the virus, according to the Pentagon. The guardsman passed away on Saturday after being hospitalized for the novel coronavirus on March 21.

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Texas oil regulators poised to debate historic production controls

Workers extracting oil from oil wells in the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas. Photo: Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images

Texas oil regulators are likely to hold a hearing in April on whether to take the historic step to curb the state’s oil production amid a global market collapse fueled by the coronavirus.

Driving the news: Ryan Sitton, one of three commissioners of the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees state oil production, told Axios that a hearing will likely be held soon in response to a renewed request earlier Monday from two oil companies to limit production as one way to stem the steep slide in global oil prices.