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

Agreement in New York

As you probably know, the New York Attorney General recently issued a second subpoena demanding personal information about thousands of Airbnb hosts in New York. This morning, we announced that we have reached an agreement that we believe appropriately balances the Attorney General’s stated objectives of going after illegal hotels, while protecting as much of our hosts’ personal data as possible.

It took a long time to reach this agreement, with lots of hard work on both sides, and I want to make sure you heard from me about how we got here, what we believe, and what this means for our community in New York.

We first received a demand for data from the New York Attorney General last fall, and we strongly believed that the demand was overbroad. We began months of discussions with the Attorney General’s office to voice our strong concerns and to try to resolve the matter without turning over data on our community, and when those discussions didn’t lead to an agreement, we challenged the subpoena in the New York State Supreme Court. Last week, a judge in Albany agreed that the Attorney General’s demand was overbroad.

But the judge’s ruling also made it clear that he would accept a new, narrower subpoena and require Airbnb to turn over personal information about hosts if the Attorney General’s Office made some changes to their demands. So the very next day, the Attorney General submitted such a narrowed subpoena.

We wanted to do everything we could to avoid turning over data on thousands of regular New Yorkers, so we continued to work with the Attorney General’s Office and we now believe we have reached an agreement that will protect the privacy of thousands of Airbnb hosts, while allowing the Attorney General to investigate bad actors and move us forward.

Under the terms of the agreement we announced today:

  • Airbnb will provide the Attorney General with anonymized data about our hosts in New York. This data will not include names, apartment numbers, or other personally-identifiable information.
  • The Attorney General’s Office will have one year to review the anonymized data and receive information from us about individual hosts who may be subject to further investigation. We believe the Attorney General’s Office is focused on large corporate property managers and hosts who take apartments off the market and disrupt communities. We have already removed more than 2,000 listings in New York and believe that many of the hosts the Attorney General is concerned about are no longer a part of Airbnb.
  • We will provide even more information to hosts about the laws in New York. Hosts will see additional information before they list their space and we’ll email every host in New York with information about the law.

We believe that this is a strong agreement that best protects our community’s data and sets us on a positive path forward.

We are committed to working with leaders in New York and around the world to ensure they know more about home-sharing and how it makes neighborhoods better places to live, work and visit. And I know that our hosts and guests are committed to this kind of collaborative, constructive dialogue as well. We are pleased that we reached this agreement, but we know  there is so much yet to be done.  For instance, the law that made this investigation possible is still on the books, and we need to change that law to allow anyone in New York who wants to rent out their own home to do so.  And we need to show the world how truly amazing our hosting community is for New York and for other cities around the globe.

Good News in New York

This afternoon, I sent the following email to the Airbnb community and I want to make sure folks who read this blog have a chance to read it as well.

Dear Host,

Today, I am happy to announce that a New York Supreme Court Justice rejected the New York Attorney General’s request for your data. The court agreed with what we have been saying for months – that the subpoena was too broad.

This is a great victory for our community, and we wanted you to know about it right away.

We still believe that our community and the Attorney General share a common goal: we all want to make New York a better place to live, work and visit.  This isn’t over, and we suspect that the Attorney General may even issue another subpoena, but our hope is that we can continue working with the Attorney General’s office to try to address his legitimate concerns about large property groups abusing our platform without the need to turn over vast swaths of data on New Yorkers just trying to make ends meet.

Sometime later this week, we will host a webinar and meeting to talk through where this leaves us.  But we wanted you to know the good news as soon as possible.

The past few months have been very difficult for our community in New York, but it’s been inspiring to see our community unite around this cause.  We said from the beginning that we would stand with you every step of the way, and I’ve been honored to do so.

David Hantman

Head of Global Public Policy

 

The new housing law in Berlin

EnglishDeutsch 

Several weeks ago, I wrote about proposed housing legislation in Berlin that contains some confusing provisions related to short-term rentals. This legislation will take effect on May 1 and we want to ensure you have some basic information about the new rules.

We have been working closely with local policy makers for many months, educating them about the sharing economy and the thousands of citizens in Berlin who are using Airbnb to help make ends meet by renting out the home in which they live. These hosts are not big businesses, and they are not impacting the availability of housing in Berlin. To the contrary, this activity makes it more affordable for regular Berlin residents to stay in Berlin. We will continue talking to policymakers about how to best preserve affordable housing and ensure that the Sharing Economy can continue to thrive.

The legislation that will soon enter into effect is quite broad, and not specifically focused on home sharing. As a result, the new rules may or may not apply to your specific situation. We strongly recommend that you reach out to your district’s office to find out whether the law applies to you. You can find the contact details and further information under ‘Your City’s Regulations’: https://www.airbnb.de/help/responsible-hosting

Here are the basic outlines of the law that we believe could be relevant for your hosting activities:

  • Some apartments already made available for short term vacation rental need to be registered with their local district office within three months. However, some places may not fall under the new rules or may be exempted. Be sure to double-check with your district. Upon registration, the apartment will benefit from a 2-year grace period for short term rental purposes and may apply for a permit afterwards.

  • Apartments made available for the first time after May 1, 2014, for short term vacation rental, may need a permit from the local district office. Upon application, the district office should respond within 14 weeks and in the absence of a response, the permit is considered granted.

These rules are confusing and some believe the law could be challenged on constitutional grounds, on the basis that it is at odds with the basic right of residents to use their property in the manner they see fit.

We will continue to work with policymakers in Berlin to advocate for fair progressive rules that allow regular people to share the home in which they live. We know this activity and the Airbnb community bring incredible economic benefits to Berlin.

An Economic Impact Study released last September found that 76 percent of Airbnb hosts simply occasionally share only a home they live in – they are not running a business. Sharing their own homes makes it possible for more people to stay in the home and city they love. And we know that Airbnb isn’t having an effect on the number of homes available for rent. There are 1.9 million apartments in Berlin, and only 10,000 listings on Airbnb.

We hope that the districts will clarify these complex and overbroad new rules and ensure the Airbnb community can continue to thrive. Meanwhile, we will continue to educate policy makers about the amazing personal empowerment and economic benefits Airbnb is providing to our hosts and to Berlin as a whole. We will never stop fighting for our community of hosts and travellers, and we will keep you informed as this debate progresses.

 

Das neue Zweckentfremdungsverbotgesetz in Berlin

Vor einigen Wochen habe ich berichtet, dass der Entwurf des Zweckentfremdungsverbotgesetzes einige Unklarheiten im Bezug auf die Kurzzeitvermietung enthält. Das Gesetz wird am 1. Mai in Kraft treten und wir möchten sicherstellen, dass Ihr über die grundlegenden Punkte der neuen Regulierung informiert seid.

Wir haben in den vergangenen Monaten eng mit dem Gesetzgeber zusammengearbeitet, ihn über die Sharing Economy informiert und von den tausenden Berlinern berichtet, die Airbnb nutzen, um sich durch die Vermietung ihrer eigenen Wohnung, ein Taschengeld dazu zu verdienen. Dabei handelt es sich nicht um Gewerbebetriebe und unsere Vermieter haben keine Auswirkung auf den verfügbaren Wohnraum. Im Gegenteil, durch die Vermietung können es sich normale Berliner leisten weiterhin in ihren Kiezen zu wohnen. Wir werden auch weiterhin mit Entscheidern sprechen und gemeinsam mit ihnen überlegen, wie bezahlbarer Wohnraum erhalten werden und die Sharing Economy weiter wachsen kann.

Das Gesetz, das bald in Kraft tritt, ist sehr breit und zielt nicht speziell auf das Teilen von Wohnraum ab. Deshalb ist es von Fall zu Fall abhängig, ob die neue Regulierung auf Eure individuelle Situation zutrifft. Wir empfehlen Euch daher dringend, das Wohnungsamt in Eurem Bezirk zu kontaktieren, um zu erfahren, ob das Gesetz auf Euch angewendet werden kann. Die Kontaktadressen und weitere Informationen findet Ihr im Abschnitt ‘Bestimmungen Deiner Stadt’: https://www.airbnb.de/help/responsible-hosting

Im Folgenden findet Ihr die grundlegenden Regelungen, die unserer Einschätzung nach die Kurzzeitvermietung betreffen können:

  • Bestehende Ferienwohnungen müssen innerhalb von drei Monaten beim Bezirksamt registriert werden. Informiere Dich bitte direkt bei Deinem Bezirksamt, ob Du Deine Wohnung registrieren musst. Nach der Registrierung kann die Wohnung aufgrund einer Bestandsschutzregelung für weitere zwei Jahre angeboten werden. Danach kann eine Genehmigung beantragt werden.

  • Neue Ferienwohnungen können ab dem 1. Mai 2014 eine Genehmigung bei ihrem Bezirksamt beantragen. Das Bezirksamt sollte den Antrag innerhalb von 14 Wochen bearbeiten. Wenn dies nicht gelingt, gilt die Genehmigung als erteilt.

Das Gesetz enthält unklare Regulierungen über das Teilen von Wohnraum und wirft laut einigen Experten auch verfassungsrechtliche Fragen, ua. im Bezug auf das Eigentumsrecht, auf.

Wir werden auch weiterhin mit der Verwaltung zusammenarbeiten und uns für eine faire Umsetzung des Gesetzes einsetzen, die normalen Berlinern erlaubt, ihre eigene Wohnung zu teilen. Die Stadt Berlin profitiert ökonomisch von dieser Aktivität und von dem Engagement unserer Community.

Unsere Wirtschaftsfaktorstudie, die wir im September 2013 veröffentlicht haben, zeigt, dass 76 Prozent unserer Gastgeber gelegentlich ihren Wohnraum, den sie selbst nutzen, teilen – und kein Gewerbe betreiben. Das Teilen von Wohnraum trägt dazu bei, dass mehr Menschen langfristig in ihrer Wohnung und ihrem Kiez bleiben können. Wir wissen, dass Airbnb keine Auswirkungen auf den verfügbaren Wohnraum hat. Es gibt 1,9 Millionen Wohneinheiten in Berlin und nur ca. 10.000 Inserate auf Airbnb.

Wir hoffen, dass die Bezirksämter die komplexen und weit gefassten neuen Regulierungen klären und so sicherstellen, dass die Airbnb-Community weiter wachsen kann. Wir werden in der Zwischenzeit die Entscheider weiterhin über die persönliche Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten und die ökonomischen Vorteile von Airbnb für unsere Gastgeber und die gesamte Stadt Berlin aufklären. Wir werden uns weiterhin für unsere Community aus Gastgebern und Gästen einsetzen und Euch auf dem Laufenden über die Diskussion in Berlin halten.

Statement on Hearing in New York

Today, the Attorney General again made it clear that he remains determined to comb through the personal information of thousands of regular New Yorkers just trying to make ends meet. We were proud to stand up for our hosts who share their homes and against this over-broad, government sponsored fishing expedition.  Cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg are embracing the sharing economy and New York shouldn’t be stuck playing catch-up.

The Airbnb Community’s Economic Impact in Portland

Over the past few months, we’ve shared a lot of good news with you about Airbnb and Portland – we announced our new Shared City partnership with the city in March and we’ll be opening our North American Operational Headquarters there this summer.

Today, we released a study with more good news about Airbnb’s positive impact in Portland. The study found the Airbnb community generated $61 million in economic activity in Portland in one year and supported 660 jobs.

Portland residents use Airbnb to help afford their homes, pursue their dreams, and share the city they love with the world. The study found 84 percent of Airbnb hosts in Portland share only the home they live in and 65 percent of Portland hosts said they have used Airbnb income to help afford staying in their homes.  Hosting also helps Portland residents to pursue innovative careers and non-traditional forms of work. Forty-five percent of hosts are self-employed, freelancers or part-time workers.

Airbnb also attracts new travelers to Portland who stay longer and spend more than traditional hotel guests. These travelers are seeking authentic, local experiences in Portland and across Oregon.

Highlights from the study include:

  • The typical Airbnb host in Portland occasionally rents out only the property in which he or she lives to help afford increasing costs of living. 84% of Airbnb hosts rent the home they live in, and the typical host earns $6,860 per year in Airbnb income. 65% of Portland hosts have used Airbnb income to help afford staying in their homes.
  • Airbnb hosts are diverse in age and many are low-middle income. The average age of Airbnb hosts in Portland is 42, and 40% of hosts earn below Portland median household income.
  • Hosting enables Portland residents to be more entrepreneurial and pursue nontraditional forms of work. 45% of hosts are self-employed, freelancers, or part-time workers, including 12% of hosts who have used Airbnb income to support themselves while launching a new business.
  • Airbnb guests stay on average 3.9 nights (compared to 2.1 nights for traditional hotel guests in Portland) and spend on average more than twice as much over the course of their trips ($815 compared to $360 for the traditional hotel guest).
  • Airbnb allows guests to stay in traditionally less-visited neighborhoods and support the local businesses there. 96% of Airbnb properties in Portland are located outside the main hotel areas, and 98% of hosts suggest local restaurants, cafes, bars, and stores to their guests.

Portlanders have long-embraced sharing, and this study shows the positive impact that can bring to the city. Airbnb will continue to build on this impact in Portland through the Shared City initiative by collaborating on campaigns to attract sustainable forms of tourism, send visitors to local businesses, and support disaster relief programs. Airbnb will also collect and remit taxes to the city of Portland on behalf of our hosts and make it easy for Portland hosts to donate the money they earn from Airbnb to a local cause, matching those donations as a percentage of our fees.

For more details about Airbnb’s economic impact in Portland, check out the press release.