01:47 - Source: CNN Business
Here's how Airbnb went from air mattresses to rental empire
CNN  — 

The people of Jersey City voted overwhelmingly to uphold new restrictions on short-term rentals, in a move expected to cut down on the number of properties listed on Airbnb in New Jersey’s second-largest city.

Unofficial results from Tuesday’s referendum showed that about 70% of voters supported restrictions on short-term rentals, with 97% of precincts reporting.

Under the new restrictions, landlords who don’t live on site would be prohibited from offering short-term rentals in buildings with more than four units. They would also be restricted to renting out their properties no more than 60 nights a year, among other measures.

The restrictions are set to go into effect on January 1, 2020.

City saw a huge increase in short-term rentals

Jersey City, which is home to about 265,000 people, has become a popular destination for New York tourists seeking to save money on lodging, given its short distance from Manhattan.

But supporters of the regulations said that in recent years, the short-term rental market, and specifically Airbnb, had given rise to unofficial hotels that had driven up housing costs, contributed to gentrification and prompted safety concerns.

“Despite the fact that Airbnb spent $5 million, I’m pleased that Jersey residents supported common sense regulations,” Mayor Steven Fulop told CNN.

The measure was also backed by hotel industry groups and the Hotel Trades Council, a union that represents hotel and gaming workers in New York and New Jersey.

Since city officials approved short-term rentals about four years ago, Fulop said that the number of listings on sites such as Airbnb had increased about tenfold.

The city council passed the rules on short-term rentals in June, but opponents backed by Airbnb petitioned to put the measure to a vote.

Airbnb said it stood up for property owners

Tuesday’s referendum was widely seen as blow to Airbnb, which had mounted a multimillion-dollar campaign to oppose the measure through an organization called Keep Our Homes, according to The New York Times.

The news also comes as the home rental service recently announced that it intends to go public next year.

“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,” Airbnb spokesperson Christopher Nulty said in a statement.

Nulty also pointed to its efforts to defeat similar measures in other cities.

“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,” Nulty said. “It’s unfortunate to see the hotel-backed special interests run a campaign that moves Jersey City in a different direction.”

But Airbnb maintained that the regulations would not have a significant impact on its business. The company said that Jersey City only makes up about 3,000 of its more than 7 million listings worldwide, adding that the Jersey Shore was a much bigger market.