Op-Ed: Why Home-Sharing Is Good For Harlem

By June Broxton

For some, being a small business owner can be a scary prospect. Believing in yourself enough to go off on your own and pursue a passion can be difficult.

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I create personalized gift-baskets and being a small business owner has given me the flexibility to follow my passions, try new things, and dedicate myself to the causes I care about. I started volunteering at a Rites of Passage Program, where I serve as a mentor to local students. I also get to spend more time at church, singing in the choir, and connecting with my faith. I am very active in my community here in Harlem.

Another hobby of mine is growing vegetables and herbs in my backyard garden. Being a homeowner is a point of pride for me and keeping up with my garden and my house brings me immense joy. That’s why I started renting my home on Airbnb, so I could share my house and the community I love with travelers from faraway places.

For the last four years, I have rented out a room in my house to visitors in New York City. As a small business owner, opening my home to short-term renters has allowed me to be surrounded by the company I was craving while also giving me the opportunity to make extra money to cover my bills. It has served as a way to make an income in retirement and meet new people.

They have taught me so much about the world and I have, in turn, showed them our world here in Harlem.

During the pandemic, I was proud to host folks who could not afford a hotel for $400-$500 per night. I know how hard it can be to find an affordable hotel in Manhattan these days. I paused when COVID-19 first spread across the city, but found myself soon missing the presence of visitors. I love all my guests. They have taught me so much about the world and I have, in turn, showed them our world here in Harlem. People from all over have come to stay at my home. They spend their time in our neighborhood as well as their money at our local restaurants, boutiques and mom-and-pop shops. Over the past summer, their contributions to our local economy that suffered over the course of the pandemic have brought new life to our city. Everyone can see this and yet that could soon come to a halt.

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Despite the immense value, short-term renters bring to New York, our local government wants to keep visitors out. I testified at a City Council hearing where elected officials said they wanted to “end illegal hotels” but anyone who has visited or stopped by knows that my house is nothing like a hotel. And neither are the homes of thousands of New Yorkers who lost their apartments and rooms on home-sharing platforms. There isn’t anything illegal about welcoming guests into one’s home. If you ask me, “illegal hotels” sounds like a term created by the hotel industry in order to wipe out its competitors.

It is categorically wrong to tell homeowners what they can and cannot do with their property.

It is categorically wrong to tell homeowners what they can and cannot do with their property. I did not buy my house 21 years ago just to have the government tell me what to do. The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement told me I could not even rent my home out to family members who are visiting from out of town, if I wanted to.

Related: Read more Harlem World Magazine Op-Ed’s here.

Without the income I make as a host, I’m not sure what my future holds. I know I am not the only New Yorker who relies on short-term renters to keep their home. New York continues to become more and more expensive and our local government spends more time harassing communities of color than making our city more equitable for everyone. Shame on the city and our elected officials for favoring the hotel industry over real New Yorkers like myself.

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June Broxton, GBP, CGD is a Licensed Real Estate Professional in New York City, her expertise is in Manhattan Rentals and Sales, in Upper Manhattan for affordable sales and rentals, and Homeowner in Harlem.

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