New York is missing out on a big opportunity by battling Airbnb. That was the message from the rental site's co-founder and chief technology officer Nathan Blecharczyk at the Milken Institute's Global Conference in Los Angeles.
"We're not against regulation," Blecharczyk said in an interview with CNNMoney. "But the approach has been let's reinforce the status quo."
Airbnb has been facing-off with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is pressing the real estate start-up for the identities of hosts it believes are running afoul of state housing laws.
Under New York law, residents can't rent out properties for fewer than 30 days when they're not residing there, and Schneiderman claims that some Airbnb users are essentially running large-scale illegal hotels.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times last week, Schneiderman wrote that Airbnb has "rejected the idea of self-policing out of hand and refused to provide data that would give us a handle on the scope of the problem."
Airbnb did reveal earlier this month that it has shut down some 2,000 listings in New York City so far this year. But Blecharczyk thinks New York isn't seeing the big picture.
He said Airbnb pumps $768 million into the New York City economy annually. A third of that goes directly to the hosts, many of whom Blecharczyk claims use the money to pay their mortgages and living expenses. The other two-thirds go to small businesses.
"It's being spent at the local coffee shop, the host's favorite restaurant," he said. "The money goes to the neighborhood, not the chains in Times Square."
What about taxes? Blecharczyk said that Airbnb could contribute $21 million in tax revenue each year, but the city won't let it. That's because under current law, Airbnb can't tack on a hotel tax to bookings. Instead, it's up to Airbnb hosts to pay the tax, though many of them are unaware of all the tax implications of renting out their places.
"It seems like a no-brainer to change this law," Blecharczyk said.
As for his company's future endeavors, Blecharczyk said Airbnb, which recently raised a round of financing that values the company at $10 billion, is not planning to go public.
But Blecharczyk hinted that Airbnb is working on certain technologies that would crowd-source local information from hosts and guests. In other words, Airbnb would be more than just a site people can use to find a place to stay.
"We can serve them the entire trip," he said.
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