On May 1st, New York City began enforcing a law that shuts down “illegal” hostels. The decision is a challenging one for youth and budget travelers who now will be reduced to handful of available affordable lodging choices (including our fully compliant HI-New York hostel at Amsterdam and 103rd). And it has generated controversy locally and within the travel community.
How did this happen in the first place?
To begin with, the new law includes more than just hostels. “Illegal” hotels and some apartment rentals also are affected, but let’s leave those aside for our purposes, since our focus is hostels.
Over the years, some property owners have silently converted apartment buildings for city residents into hostels for travelers. Lawmakers feel this is a problem for a couple of reasons.
First, the availability of affordable housing is a community concern for many New Yorkers. Laws have been passed to preserve apartment housing and keep rents low. Meanwhile, single room occupancy buildings also are protected by city laws as a source of longer term, inexpensive housing for low-income residents. In both cases, building owners as a result receive much less in rents than they otherwise could.
A number of building owners took matters into their own hands, and converted all or parts of buildings into higher paying tourist lodging. Some of these illegal hostels have been operating for years, because in the past the city had limited legal authority to deal with the problem. That is, until May 1st, when the new law changed everything. It allows shutdown of violating buildings.
Yet, let’s not forget about the hostellers. They are the innocent party in this situation. One estimate is that more than 3000 beds will no longer be available this summer. Those missing beds translate into 3000 travelers displaced daily, whom we care greatly about.
Next to Come: An Unwelcome Predicament