Airbnb gaining popularity in WNY as regulations are discussed

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Airbnb continues to gain popularity in Western New York. The company says 42,000 people used an Airbnb last year when they visited the buffalo-Niagara region. In 2014, only 7,600 visitors used the service.

Seth Amman and his wife have been hosting travelers at their home for the past five years.

“The first year or two it was really about the occasional business person and tourists going to Niagara Falls, not even to go to Buffalo,” said Amman.

He said that changed with Buffalo’s renaissance.

“In recent years, people are coming to take their bar exam to be a lawyer,” said Amman. “We do get a lot of doctors or people doing their residency.”

According to a new report Airbnb has released, the company generated $30 million in economic activity last year in the Buffalo-Niagara region. The study also said hosts in WNY earned an average of $7,250.

Amman and his wife host a couple hundred people each year.

He told News 4 the extra income helped soften the burden of their career changes.

“Airbnb has actually helped buffer that change for us and it’s helped our careers in ways we probably wouldn’t have the same flexibility to do otherwise,” said Amman.

Airbnb’s are not regulated in the City of Buffalo.

Co-owner of Oscar’s Bed and Breakfast Michael Parks told News 4 they are at a disadvantage.

“We had to get a lodging house permit, license, certificate of occupancy, we have inspections from the fire marshal and building inspector every two years,” said Parks. “Every time they come out, they add requirements to what they want us to have.”

He said they have spent more than $50,000 to get their house up to the city’s standards.

Parks sent a letter to the Common Council with his concerns. He’d like to see Airbnb’s follow the same restrictions as traditional bed and breakfast businesses.

“We want to be competitive with them,” he said.

Council President Darius Pridgen told News 4 the Council’s Legislation Committee is looking at possible Airbnb regulations to make sure there is fair competition.

State lawmakers are also looking at an Airbnb bill, supported by the company.

Airbnb told News 4 the bill would change the way hosts register, require hosts to provide insurance, create a 24/7 hotline for neighbors to call with concerns and change the way taxes are paid. Currently hosts collect and pay state taxes, the bill would change that to allow Airbnb to take care of it.

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