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Airbnb makes big claim about NYC users

October 9, 2013: 2:25 PM ET

airbnb_screenshotAirbnb says it is helping New Yorkers stay in their homes.

FORTUNE -- Airbnb is having some big headaches in New York, with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaing information on the service's 15,000 or so New York City renters. Among the issues are possible tax evasion and certain renters being evicted by Airbnb-loving landlords.

Without specifically mentioning the subpoena, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote a blog post defending the company's  NYC business. It said, in part:

"Our 15,000 hosts are regular people from all five boroughs. Eighty-seven percent of them rent the homes in which they live. On average, they are at the median income level and more than half of them depend on Airbnb to help them stay in their home."

This reminded me a bit of a comment Chesky made during Fortune BrainstormTech in July 2012, when he claimed that the company had helped "thousands" of homeowners avoid foreclosure.  Upon follow-up, he admitted it was based on anecdotal extrapolation.  And when I asked the company for those anecdotes, it could only find a few.

So Chesky's new statement set off some mental alarm bells, and I asked the company for its basis.

A spokesman replied that Airbnb recently surveyed its NYC renters. Included in there was the following question: "Has hosting helped you stay in your home?"

I'm told that over half responded affirmatively, although no word yet on specific numbers (including how many of the 15,000 hosts participated in the survey). The spokesman says that the company does plan to release the data at some point, but has not yet determined exactly how or when it plans to do so.

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Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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