Working Together on New Proposals in Chicago

Earlier this year, we began collecting tourist taxes from guests on behalf of our hosts in Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California.

This week, we wanted to share that we are also working together to collect and remit these taxes in Chicago, Illinois. Over the past few months, we have been meeting with city and state policymakers to discuss this program. On Monday, the Chicago City Council Finance Committee approved an ordinance to make it possible for home sharing platforms to collect and remit taxes on behalf of hosts and guests in the city. The ordinance will move to the full Chicago City Council later this month and we look forward to supporting this proposal and continuing to work together with local leaders in the months ahead.

We know our community already has contributed substantial positive economic benefits in Chicago, and this is another way to continue to make the city even stronger.

Historic Day For Home Sharing in San Francisco

This morning was a great one for our community and for the entire sharing economy, as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed into law legislation that makes it fair to share in San Francisco. The new law in San Francisco is a great victory for everyone who wants to share their home and the city they love.

At the signing ceremony, Mayor Lee met with a number of home sharers and listened to their experiences as San Franciscans.

Today’s signing ceremony was the final step of a long process. The bill that was signed into law today represents the culmination of years of proposals, discussions, negotiations, hearings and votes by the Board of Supervisors.  Every interest group was heard from, every issue was raised. Legislative discussions rarely result in perfect solutions, but this is a stronger bill than it was when it started.

And the fundamental nature of the new law – one that legalizes home sharing for the vast majority of our San Francisco hosts, those who simply rent out their own home on an occasional basis – is a huge step forward in San Francisco and echoes what we have seen around the world.

As more and more people learn more about Airbnb, home sharing and the sharing economy, they are seeing how our community make cities better places to live, work and visit. Home sharing is here to stay, and policymakers are looking at old rules — some of which were drafted before the internet even existed — and enacting some commonsense regulations for home sharing.

Every city is different, so there’s no one size fits all policy, but we’re incredibly encouraged by the progress we’re seeing around the world. Here are just a few examples:

  • Portland: The City Council unanimously approved sensible legislation making it easier for many Portlanders to share their homes.

  • Barcelona: Earlier this month, Catalonian Minister for Enterprise Felip Puig announced that “the sharing economy has arrived to stay,” and launched the Government of Catalonia’s new effort to study the sharing economy and develop new rules for home sharing.

  • France: In March, the President of France signed into law “Bill ALUR”—new national housing legislation. The law clarifies that wherever you live in France, you can rent out the home in which you live.

  • London: The government announced that they’ll be reviewing a key section of that 40-year-old law—the Greater London Powers Act—that governs home-sharing in London. Housing Minister Kris Hopkins that some portions of the law are “outdated and unworkable” and we are pleased to see the Minister working towards a “fairer, more flexible private rented sector.”

  • Amsterdam: The Amsterdam City Council gave final approval earlier this year to a new policy that embraces home sharing and makes Amsterdam a pioneer in the global sharing economy. The policy makes it easy for local residents to share the home in which they live, while simultaneously cracking down on illegal hotels that abuse the system.

  • Hamburg: Under a law enacted by the City of Hamburg, it is entirely legal to use Airbnb to rent out a private room or to occasionally rent out your primary residence, and you do not need to take any action or apply for a license from the government.

The lesson from these examples is simple: when we all work together, we can come up with some sensible rules of the road. We’re meeting with more leaders and community members in cities around the world and we’re confident that as they learn more about the sharing economy, they too will draft and pass policies that protect the public interest and ensure the sharing economy continues to thrive.

Working Together in Victoria, British Columbia

On this blog, I regularly write about communities around the world that are embracing home sharing and the benefits it brings to cities.

This week, I wanted to share good news from the City of Victoria, British Columbia, where local leaders said they plan to work together with Airbnb to develop innovative policies around home sharing.

Acknowledging the economic and social benefits of this activity, City leaders outlined steps to revise and streamline policies around short-term rentals and harness these benefits. Stating that “Models like Airbnb appear to be here to stay,” the City identified areas where we can work together moving forward, including:

1. Looking to adapt and evolve as and where necessary the wording of our relevant zoning and bylaws [to] cover the needs of those home owners providing their homes for short term rentals through sites such as Airbnb

2. Working to ensure a more even playing field for short term accommodations by evolving towards a fair taxation approach

3. Working to ensure that Airbnb listings are available for emergency accommodations if required in the event of a disaster

4. Shared promotion of the city and neighbourhoods and local businesses as a leading tourist destination.

We are excited to work together with local leaders in Victoria to create more shareable, more livable neighborhoods through relevant, concrete actions and partnerships and we look forward to building on these experiences with more cities around the world.

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.

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.