Thousands of San Franciscans Call on Leaders to Make it Fair to Share

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Today, supporters of home sharing presented over 4,000 petitions signed by San Franciscans who believe residents should be free to share the home in which they live.

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of San Franciscans have shared their stories at City Hall urging legislators to pass fair, progressive rules for home sharing.

At today’s Land Use Committee Hearing, supporters of home sharing turned out again. During the hearing, eleven home sharers presented petitions signed by residents of their respective districts urging the Committee to move forward with legislation that makes it fair to share.

At the hearing, the Land Use Committee recommended that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopt home sharing legislation. This is an important step forward for everyone who supports home sharing but there is still work to be done to strengthen this legislation and we are eager to work with everyone as we move ahead.

You can check out the full text of the petitions signed by thousands of San Franciscans on the Fair to Share San Francisco website.

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David Owen is Regional Head of Public Policy at Airbnb

 

UK Ready to Embrace the “Airbnb Economy”

This morning, the United Kingdom announced an ambitious plan to embrace the sharing economy and communities like Airbnb. In a Telegraph article headlined “Government poised to embrace the Airbnb economy” Business and Enterprise Minister Matt Hancock described the new review and told the Telegraph “these new business models put money into households the length and breadth of the country.”

We’ve seen how Airbnb makes neighborhoods better places to live, work and visit and we’re excited about this new step forward.  The government’s review is designed to “assess the opportunity for the sharing economy to create a nation of micro-entrepreneurs and radically transform the way we use our assets and resources.” This review builds on great progress we’ve seen in the UK. Earlier this year, the government announced that they are reviewing a key section of that 40-year-old law—the Greater London Powers Act—that governs home sharing in London.

We look forward to continuing to work with the government to discuss how Airbnb makes the UK better for travellers and locals alike. According to our analysis, the Airbnb community contributed $815m to the economy in the UK in one year alone and we know there is room for the sharing economy to grow in the UK and around the world.

The news from London is also consistent with what we are seeing and hearing from leaders everywhere. More and more governments are embracing home sharing and we are excited to work with policy makers on sensible rules that protect the public interest, help regular people share their homes and ensure the sharing economy continues to thrive.

 

Collecting and Remitting Taxes in San Francisco

Today I want to share the news that Airbnb is planning to launch a program to collect occupancy taxes on behalf of our hosts in San Francisco beginning October 1. We’ve already launched this program in Portland, Oregon and are excited to be moving ahead in our hometown.

This is the culmination of a long process that began earlier this year when we announced our intent to help collect and remit occupancy taxes in San Francisco. Our community members in San Francisco have told us they want to pay their fair share and the overwhelming majority have asked us to help. In the past, it’s been difficult for individual hosts to pay taxes that were designed for traditional hotels that operate year round. This has been a complicated issue and we’re happy to be taking action to help simplify the collection process for hosts, guests and for the City.

Here’s what this announcement means for hosts and guests in San Francisco:

For reservations in San Francisco booked on or after October 1, guests will see a new line item on their Airbnb receipt for the city-imposed Transient Occupancy Tax. The tax will be added to the total amount paid by guests on stays of fewer than 30 days – hosts will not have to do anything extra. Those taxes will be remitted to the City by Airbnb on behalf of hosts. If you’d like to learn more about occupancy taxes and Airbnb, please visit our Help Center.

By helping to collect and remit occupancy taxes on behalf of our hosts and guests, the process should be easier and more streamlined for everyone. We’re not the only home sharing company operating in San Francisco, and we hope other companies will join us in implementing similar programs. We think it’s the right thing to do in San Francisco and we’re proud to be moving forward.  We look forward to a continued dialogue on this issue with our entire community in the future. We know home sharing and our community of hosts make cities stronger and more vibrant and we want to work with leaders around the world to ensure the sharing economy continues to thrive.

Hotels vs. Regular New Yorkers

Today, some in the hotel industry are launching a campaign to try and stop home sharing in New York. We’ve had productive conversations with many hotel leaders who understand that Airbnb makes New York stronger for all of us and makes it possible for more people to travel. And we’re eager to have even more conversations with everyone in the hospitality industry about ways we can all work together to promote travel in New York and around the world.

But today, media reports indicate that some misinformed hotels are willing to spend millions of dollars because they don’t think regular New Yorkers should be able to share the home in which they live.

Before you hear what the hotel industry’s campaign has to say, check out the facts about Airbnb:

  • Airbnb makes New York more affordable for more New Yorkers and makes the economy stronger. According to a study conducted by an well-respected advisory firm, 62 percent of Airbnb hosts in New York say hosting has helped them stay in their homes in the city they love.
  • Airbnb hosts earn a modest, but significant amount of money that can make a real difference for hard working families. The typical host earns $7,530 per year by sharing some extra space or the home they live in when they are out of town for a few days.
  • Airbnb is good for the economy in New York. All told, the Airbnb community will generate an estimated $768 million in economic activity in New York in 2014 and support 6,600 jobs. Travelers will have the chance to stay in unique spaces and visit small businesses in all five boroughs, and the Airbnb community will pay more than $36 million in sales taxes.

Some opponents of sharing have begun to claim that home sharing has an adverse effect on affordable housing in New York. This is an important issue and these claims are misleading and inaccurate. Here are the facts:

  • There are more than 3 million households in New York City and approximately 25,000 Airbnb listings, far too few to have an effect on housing prices.
  • This is especially true because the overwhelming majority of Airbnb hosts occasionally share only the home in which they live. 87 percent of Airbnb hosts share the home in which they live. The average host shares his or her space four nights a month. These hosts aren’t taking housing off the market, they are sharing the home in which they live once in awhile. Additionally, sharing their space is often the only way they can afford to stay in their home.
  • Experts like U.C. Berkeley professor Ken Rosen agree that Airbnb and short-term rentals aren’t driving up rents or having an impact on the rental housing market. Professor Rosen also noted that long term rentals can be easier and more profitable for landlords because short term rentals aren’t always occupied and come with other costs.

We strongly oppose illegal hotels, and we are a company founded on the belief that housing should be more accessible, more affordable, and more available.  We have worked to remove people from Airbnb that were having an adverse effect on travelers and the New York community. Earlier this year, we examined our community in New York and found that some property managers were abusing our site with multiple listings and weren’t providing a quality, local experience to guests. These hosts weren’t making their neighborhood stronger and they weren’t delivering the kind of hospitality our guests expect and deserve. We took action and removed these hosts and their more than 2,000 listings from the Airbnb community.

Airbnb was founded by regular people just trying to pay the rent by opening up their own home for a few days, so it is no coincidence that the vast majority of our hosts are doing just that. Airbnb allows long time residents to stay in their homes by earning just a little extra money to help make ends meet.

Some in the hotel industry will do everything they can to stop the sharing economy, but we look forward to working with leaders in New York on sensible legislation that cracks down on illegal hotels and ensures regular New Yorkers can share the home in which they live.

New Quinnipiac Poll: New Yorkers Back Home Sharing

Today, a new independent poll confirms that New Yorkers support home sharing.

The city-wide poll from Quinnipiac University asked “Do you think New York City residents should be permitted to rent rooms in their homes for a few days at a time to strangers, similar to a hotel, or should this practice be banned?”

Here are the results:

          Permitted to rent: 56%

          Ban practice: 36%

 You can learn more about the poll results and methodology here.

This poll confirms what we’ve known for some time: the majority of New Yorkers support home sharing and believe they should be able to share the home in which they live. We’re proud that the Airbnb platform helps New Yorkers share their space with responsible travelers from around the world. We look forward to continuing to educate even more people about the Airbnb community in New York and how Airbnb hosts and guests make this amazing city an even better place to live, work, and visit.

New York Update

I want to provide you the latest update on the New York Attorney General’s investigation into our community here in New York.

As you remember, the New York Attorney General originally requested a full set of data on most of our hosts in New York, and we were concerned that this request was too broad.  After some legal wrangling, we agreed to provide the Attorney General anonymized data about approximately 16,000 hosts in New York. This data did not include names, apartment numbers, or other personally-identifiable information, and was designed to present the Attorney General with a full picture of who our community is, and how it operates in New York. Under the agreement, the Attorney General’s Office has one year to review the anonymized data and receive information from us about individual hosts who may be subject to further investigation. You can read more about this agreement here.

Before we reached this agreement, we reviewed our community in New York and removed some bad actors who were providing a low-quality experience or failing to live up to the standards we set for our community.

After we reached this agreement and as this process continued, we became increasingly confident that the Attorney General was truly concerned about a relatively small number of hosts he considered to be “bad actors,” and that the vast majority of our community was never a target of his inquiries.  As a result, we came to expect that we would start receiving requests for individual data at a relatively modest level.

This week, that confidence was reinforced as the Attorney General requested unredacted, personal information on 124 individual past and present hosts.  The vast majority of these hosts were no longer on our site. The remainder of records requested are all for hosts with multiple listings, and without knowing more about why the Attorney General is interested in those hosts specifically, it is hard to know why they have been targeted.

But two things are clear.

First, this request represents an incredibly small fraction of our New York hosting community – far less than 1 percent. The vast majority of our hosts are simply renting out their own homes on an occasional basis.  The law was never meant to target them, and we now believe the Attorney General did not mean to target regular New Yorkers either.

Second, while the Attorney General’s Office may request additional information in the coming months, nothing about these hosting profiles suggests he is after anyone but individuals who may be flagrantly misusing our platform.

We have notified each of the 124 hosts subject to this request individually, so if you have not heard from us this week, your information was not requested. As this process progresses, we will continue to strive to be as transparent as possible. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Airbnb and big events

Airbnb has a long history with big events. In fact, it was a major design conference in San Francisco in 2007 that led the Airbnb founders to come up with the idea of opening their home to travelers. Since that first conference, Airbnb has grown from one living room in San Francisco to accommodations in more than 35,000 cities and 190 countries.

Over the past few years, Airbnb hosts have played an important role in helping destinations accommodate guests for thousands of big events worldwide, including the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the London Olympics, and the World Cup in Brazil. When traditional lodging options were at capacity or when they were far away from event venues, Airbnb hosts have opened their doors to help accommodate all visitors throughout the destination.

During these events, home sharing helps amplify the positive local impacts for host cities:

    • Home sharing helps ensure the economic impact of big events are brought right to the front door of local residents.

    • During the World Cup, Airbnb reservations generated more than $38.3 million in revenue for local hosts in Brazil.

    • Home sharing also facilitates meaningful exchanges that build community, foster cultural exchange, and strengthen understanding.

And by helping residents share their homes, home sharing promotes the efficient use of existing resources as well as a more environmentally sustainable way of traveling.

Today we released a new report that further details these past partnerships, potential economic, social, and environmental impacts, and future possibilities. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with more cities and event organizers to help host travelers around the world.

Check out the full report now.

A huge step forward for home sharing in Portland

More than a year ago, two Airbnb hosts in Portland began a conversation with City Hall about how to make it easier to share the home in which they live. As a result, last summer, city leaders began the process of reviewing and changing the law. They ensured that residents and local organizations had a seat at the table through numerous community meetings, hearings and work sessions.

Today, the work of these hosts and so many other members of the community resulted in a significant step forward for home sharing in Portland. This morning, the City Council unanimously approved sensible legislation making it easier for many Portlanders to share their homes. We are thrilled that Portland is joining the ranks of innovative cities around the world that are moving forward and embracing the sharing economy. Portland was home to some of the very first Airbnb hosts and staff, and it is only fitting that the city would serve as a leader in the sharing economy.

We’re excited about this important step forward and the opportunities it creates for the community. In the past year, the Airbnb community generated $61 million in economic activity in Portland. Behind this number are hosts like Linda, who starting using Airbnb to supplement her income after her husband passed away, but found that home sharing brought lively conversations back to her breakfast table. Or Maggie who said the income helps her to afford to live close to her children, and allowed her to take her first vacation in a long time. And hosts like Gary, who said his Airbnb income helps him to care for his father and catch up financially after losing his partner to a battle with cancer. Gary takes pride in sharing the gardens his partner planted at their home with guests from around the world.

We still have more work to do. Today’s legislation excludes many residents of multi-family buildings in Portland—a critical part of our community. The Mayor and Portland city leaders have formed a working group to study this issue and we hope this process leads to balanced legislation that makes it possible for every Portlander to share the home in which they live.

Through collaboration, hard work and community engagement, we’ve made incredible progress. We commend the City Council and staff for their diligent work and look forward to working with all stakeholders as this process moves forward.

Elected officials voice their support for sharing

Every week, more and more elected officials and community leaders are learning about the important role the sharing economy can play in supporting jobs, promoting innovation, and strengthening neighborhoods across the country. Here are two recent examples you might have missed:

  • Earlier this week at the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), 55 mayors from across the country signed a letter supporting the sharing economy and pushing back against an anti-ridesharing resolution. The letter said, “The USCM has adopted robust policy in support of innovative companies that participate in the sharing economy” and “called for the creation of local task forces to review and address regulations that promote Shareable Cities and ensure public protection.” See the letter and the list of Mayors who signed on.

  • Today, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom sent a letter to the University of California questioning policies that prevent U.C. employees from using sharing economy companies when traveling on official business. Lieutenant Governor Newsom noted that a ban is “bad for California taxpayers and at odds with the University’s long and proud tradition of nurturing innovative technologies that have powered our economy.” He added:

“Sharing economy companies offer consumers more choices that often cost less than comparable services offered by traditional vendors. As the cost of a college education continues to increase and academic departments are asked to do more with less, we should be encouraging U.C. employees to choose options that save money for taxpayers. Prohibiting U.C. employees from using services that cost less is simply bad for the University’s bottom line.

“This decision also sends an unfortunate message to U.C. students, faculty and countless Californians who are striving to create the next generation of innovative businesses and technologies. For decades, the University of California has encouraged its students and faculty to explore new ideas and challenge the status quo. This should be more than an academic concept. A University that is focused on the future and committed to fostering new technologies should not work against innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Check out Lieutenant Governor Newsom’s full letter.

It now appears that the University is reconsidering these policies and we hope U.C. employees can continue to participate in the sharing economy.

Our Community in New York

Earlier today, we launched a new effort to ensure more New Yorkers know about the Airbnb community. Douglas Atkin, our Global Head of Community sent the following email to the Airbnb community in New York and I want to make sure you have the chance to see it as well.

Dear David,

I want to update you on an exciting initiative launching today to help New Yorkers get to know the Airbnb community better.

You can view one of the host videos at our new informational website at airbnbnyc.com and sign up to learn more about this effort. In the coming weeks we’ll release more videos like this one, featuring you, our hosts. We will highlight both the benefits you receive from hosting, as well as the benefits the entire city receives from our community of hosts and travelers. We think this is one of the best ways to help New Yorkers see the value of hosting and traveling on Airbnb for local neighborhoods and the New Yorkers that live in them.

Our experience and our research have shown that the more people learn about you and the amazing work you do, the more they love you. But in New York, almost two thirds of people haven’t heard of Airbnb yet. Instead, a small minority of people in New York have been painting a misinformed picture of who you are as hosts. We’ve decided it’s time to make sure every New Yorker knows more about you, our community.

If you’d like to stay involved in this effort sign up here.

Thank you for all that you do.

Douglas Atkin

Global Head of Community