Not a sweet deal: $90 a night Airbnb rental in NYC turns out to be public housing apartment

$90 a night Airbnb rental turns out to be public housing apartment

NEW YORK — It looked like a super deal. For $90 a night, an Airbnb in the affluent Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea offered visitors to New York City easy access to Times Square, the Empire State Building, art galleries and nightclubs. The apartment was rated 4.83 out of a possible 5.

Location, location, location.

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Rachel Valerio and her mother were thrilled when they arrived from Boston -- until they retrieved the keys from a lockbox and opened the door to the seventh-floor apartment they booked, The New York Times reported. The location of a roach trap near the bed was the first clue something was amiss, and the smell of gas inside the apartment was doubly alarming, the newspaper reported.

"Then I saw the letters N-Y-C-H-A in the lobby," Valerio told the Times.

That stands for the New York City Housing Authority, the nation’s largest public housing system that is home to 400,000 low-income residents.

Valerio and her mother had checked into a public housing apartment.

Subletting a government-subsidized apartment is illegal, WNYW reported.

In a statement to the television station, NYCHA officials said, "Illegal subletting of NYCHA apartments on Airbnb is prohibited by HUD regulations and by our lease agreements. We are investigating the matter."

It is also illegal for someone to rent an apartment for fewer than 30 days unless the host is present during the stay, the Times reported. That would make many Airbnb listings illegal, according to the newspaper.

Airbnb refunded Valerio's money, but she said she sympathized with the renter's intentions.

"It feels very awful," Valerio, 29, told the Times. "I grew up poor, and I know how hard it is to get housing."

There are about 177,000 people on the waiting list for an NYCHA apartment, the newspaper reported.

Josh Meltzer, the head of northeast policy at Airbnb, told the Times his company supported a stalled bill in the New York State Legislature that would prohibit short-term rentals in public housing and rent-regulated buildings.

Airbnb does not have any specific safeguards to prevent listings in public housing, but said it is the host's responsibility to comply with their lease when listed their home on Airbnb, the Times reported.

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