An anti-Airbnb group has whipped out the race card in its battle against the apartment-sharing service.
“White hosts are making money while neighborhoods that are majority African American are losing housing,” says a flier mailed out by the Share Better Coalition, which is backed by the Hotel Trades Council.
The group claims that 75 percent of Airbnb hosts in 72 predominantly black neighborhoods in the city are, in fact, white — even though white people account for just 14 percent of the population in those areas.
Share Better cites data compiled using a computer program to scan Airbnb hosts’ profile pictures and assign them a race.
The same study also determined that white Airbnb hosts earned three times as much as their black counterparts — $159.7 million versus $48.3 million.
But Airbnb, which has been fending off negative press over hosts who allegedly deny guests based on race, says the data are faulty.
“This is yet another sad example that the Big Hotel lobby is solely interested in protecting their ability to price gouge New Yorkers and convert affordable housing into more hotel stock,” Airbnb spokeswoman Liz DeBold Fusco said.
Dr. Robert W. Livingston of Harvard, who is black, called the computer program used to assign race to user photos “problematic, controversial, and even offensive.”
He said in a statement posted to Airbnb’s website that “any attempt to sort people into racial categories using physical appearance alone will be fraught with error and inaccuracies.”
The “Faces of Airbnb” study relied on Airbnb rental data from 2016 but used demographic estimates from the US Census’s 2010-2014 American Community Survey.
A representative for Share Better and the Hotel Trades Council deferred questions about methodology to “Faces of Airbnb” author Murray Cox, who acknowledged the data was old, but said it was the best available when he conducted the study.
“It would impact it a slight amount, but we’re talking about a 500 percent disparity in race,” said Cox, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “The neighborhoods aren’t changing that fast. I know that they’re not changing that fast.”
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