With over $5 million spent on campaigning, Jersey City voters resoundingly approved an Airbnb referendum, meaning that new changes will be implemented to regulate short-term rentals in the city.
Preliminary tallies from the county clerk’s office have the ballot question passing by a nearly 2.5-to-1 margin, with 14,750 votes in favor and 6,261 against.
The measure was opposed by a sophisticated, well-funded campaign called “Keep Our Homes,” financed by Airbnb’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco.
With over $4 million to spend, they were relentless with TV ads, mailers, and social media blasts as they continually warned voters about the harms of a short-term rental “ban.”
However, the yes effort, which had 44 officials and/or entities sign their names to it, still proved to have more fire power.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D), state Senators Sandra Cunningham (D-31) and Brian Stack (D-33), the majority of the city council, Jersey City Together, the local teachers union, and many others backed the effort.
Mayor Steven Fulop, along with Ward E Councilman James Solomon and Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey – who co-sponsored the local legislation that passed in June – spearheaded the charge.
“It’s as much your victory as it is ours,” Prinz-Arey said at the Zeppelin Hall Biergarten, where dozens of supporters celebrated the victory.
“I don’t know if anyone calculated the numbers what Airbnb spent, the numbers they just got: but it was a waste of money. We were grounded in our community and they were investors parachuting into Jersey City and we sent them a message, and their investors: that they can’t do that in our community,” Solomon said.
Fulop said that this referendum sends a strong statement not only though Jersey City and the state, but across the country, echoing his sentiments from earlier today.
Keep Our Homes alleged in a statement that electioneering occurred in several instances, with one involving Fulop himself, but Airbnb still conceded the race at 10:10 p.m.
“From the start of this campaign, we knew this was going to be one of the toughest fights we’ve faced, with the big New York hotel industry determined to fight home sharing, but we had an obligation to stand up for our community,” said Airbnb spokesman Christopher Nulty.
“Cities from Buffalo to San Francisco, and Boston to Seattle have managed to pass comprehensive short-term rental regulations without punishing tenants or creating red tape and onerous registration systems. It’s unfortunate to see the hotel-backed special interests run a campaign that moves Jersey City in a different direction. There are Airbnb listings in over 100,000 cities around the world and we will continue to do all we can to support hosts.”
Conversely, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council declared that “Jersey City is not for sale!,” applauding everyone who supported the effort.
The regulations the city council approved in June included creating an annual 60-day cap if the owner is not on site, prohibiting short-term rentals in buildings with more than four units when the owner is absent, and preventing renters from serving as short-term rental hosts.