A television ad released by a group seeking Airbnb regulations tells the emotional story of a woman who says she was born and raised in a neighborhood that has changed around her. Before she begins speaking, the words "Anacostia, Washington, D.C." appear on screen.
"I was 5 years old when we moved to the neighborhood, but it doesn't feel like the place I grew up or where I raised my children," the woman in the ad says, surrounded by family photos. Commercial Airbnb renters have filled her neighborhood with strangers, she says.
But News4 has discovered the woman in the ad is an actress who lives in New York City, not Anacostia.
The organization behind the ad, the affordable-housing advocacy group Share Better, confirmed the woman in the ad is an actress and said the ad was intended to depict the real experiences D.C. residents have had with Airbnb in multiple neighborhoods.
Longtime Anacostia resident Greta Fuller, an Airbnb host who ran to represent Ward 8 in the D.C. Council, called the ad "misleading."
"Who is she? Never seen her a day in my life, nor can any neighbor identify the woman in the ad," Fuller said to Share Better in an open letter she posted to Twitter.
"I believe your organization can find a better way to bring equality to the housing crisis in this country without misleading ads and misrepresentation," she continued.
Airbnb also slammed the ad.
"This deceptive and duplicitous ad is just the latest effort by the hotel cartel to short-sheet the middle class. While hotels have ignored Anacostia for decades, Airbnb is helping people in every corner of the District of Columbia, including in Anacostia, earn a little extra money and pay the bills," the company said in a statement.
The video shown online and on TV was released as hundreds of D.C. residents testified for and against a bill that would put strict new limits on how property owners can profit from using Airbnb and other short-term rental services. The bill introduced by Councilman Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5) would limit how many properties a homeowner can list to rent on a short-term basis and for how many days per year.
McDuffie said Tuesday that the legislation targets commercial Airbnb operators who undercut the city's supply of affordable housing.
"We want to make sure we keep our long-term rental housing for residents," he said.
Similar debates are underway in cities across the country, including Los Angeles and New York City.
"The Airbnb commercial landlords don't care. They don't even live here. They buy up our homes, sometimes entire buildings, kick out tenants and make more money renting to tourists," the actress in the ad said. "And we end up with higher rents and less affordable housing.”
The D.C. Council will not vote on final legislation for at least two months.
Reported by Jodie Fleischer and Andrea Swalec, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.