New Study: Asset Sharing Supports Low-Income Households

We regularly share stories on how home sharing is a financial lifeline for countless families living in some of the greatest – but most expensive – cities in the world. Not only is it helping them to afford rising living costs, it is helping them to stay in their homes and the cities they love.

Today, we are highlighting data from independent research that says that the sharing economy has a particularly positive effect on people with lower incomes.

The research, which was conducted by New York University professor Arun Sundararajan and research scientist Samuel Fraiberger, assessed data from peer-to-peer car rental website Getaround and looked at trends they believe to apply across the sharing economy. They highlighted three different areas where they believe the sharing economy benefits low income families:

  • Greater inclusion – those who cannot afford to own their own assets can now afford to access these through peer-to-peer marketplaces.

  • More benefits, lower costs – Some move from being owners to being non-owner renters, realizing ownership cost savings, gains from greater usage efficiency and higher quality consumption.

  • Facilitating ownership – In some cases, it makes sense for families to own a particular good, but high costs put ownership out of reach. Thanks to the sharing economy, some lower income consumers are able to purchase goods with the income they can earn through peer-to-peer marketplaces.

The report concludes that:

“…peer-to-peer rental marketplaces have a disproportionately positive effect on lower-income consumers across almost every measure. This segment is more likely to switch from owning to renting, provides a higher level of peer-to-peer marketplace demand, is more likely to contribute to marketplace supply, and enjoys significantly higher levels of surplus gains. We highlight this finding because it speaks to what may eventually be the true promise of the sharing economy, as a force that democratizes access to a higher standard of living.”

Sundararajan and Fraiberger close their report by saying: “Our hope is that our economic findings will inform policy makers as they formulate appropriate regulatory policy for this increasingly important part of the economy.”

We agree – and are pleased that more and more cities across the world are implementing progressive laws that support home sharing and the sharing economy. We look forward to working with everyone on fair rules for home sharing that support regular, local people.

It’s Fair to Share in the Music City!

Earlier this evening, the Nashville Metro City Council enacted clear, fair rules that make it easier for people to share their homes and their city with travelers from around the world. In enacting these new rules of the road, Music City joins the ranks of innovative cities across the world who are embracing the positive impacts of home sharing for neighborhoods and local businesses.

Tonight’s vote comes after months of discussion between policy makers, stakeholders, and the Nashville community – including Airbnb hosts. The new measure clarifies the law to authorize short-term rentals in Nashville, making it possible for hosts to share their home when they’re present and when they’re not. The law also creates a set of simple rules designed to help ensure that guests are safe, community concerns are addressed, and it recognizes the benefits that home sharing brings to the local community.

These new regulations will also help local hosts pay their bills and make ends meet, while providing more unique options for travelers to Nashville. Airbnb guests spend more time and money in the cities they visit than the typical hotel guest, while broadening the impact of tourism to more neighborhoods and small businesses. Nashville joins a quickly growing list of places like Amsterdam, Hamburg, San Francisco, France, and San Jose at the forefront of embracing progressive rules for home sharing.

The world is embracing the incredible benefits the sharing economy provides in empowering individuals and strengthening communities.  As more cities like Nashville choose to embrace the sharing economy, more cities will benefit from the social, financial and other impacts we know our community brings.

We look forward to continued progress in Nashville and other cities around the world to ensure the sharing economy continues to thrive.

Working Together to Collect and Remit in Washington D.C. and Chicago, Illinois

One of the issues we have been working hard on here at Airbnb is the question of how we can best help our community understand — and in many cases help them pay — the kinds of taxes that might apply to renting out one’s own home. We have long provided income tax forms in the United States, for instance.

Over the last year, we have increasingly turned to helping hosts and guests pay tourism taxes as well. Sometimes called “hotel tax” or “transient occupancy tax,” it isn’t always clear which taxes apply and to whom in our community. But as we learn more, we want to help more.

Airbnb first began collecting tourist taxes from guests on behalf of our hosts in Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California. So far, we’ve collected and sent more than $5 million to these governments. Since then we have worked to implement similar arrangements and will tomorrow begin collecting and remitting tourist taxes in Amsterdam and in San Jose, California. We are also continuing our productive discussions on a similar initiative in France.

This week, we wanted to share that on February 15, we will also begin collecting and remitting these taxes in Washington D.C. and Chicago, Illinois. If you’d like to learn more about how this process will work in those or other cities, please visit our Help Center.

We know that our community has already contributed substantial positive economic benefits in each of these communities, and this is just one more step in helping our hosts make their neighborhoods stronger.

This is a complicated challenge, but we want to continue working with officials around the globe to ensure that tax rules for home sharing are clear, fair, and easy to follow. We look forward to a continued dialogue on this issue with leaders around the world to ensure the sharing economy continues to thrive.

Working Together for Home Sharing in New York City

Seven years ago, two recent graduates who couldn’t pay their rent hosted a few out-of-town guests on air beds in their San Francisco apartment. Later, they created Airbnb, and today thousands of New Yorkers are doing the same thing: welcoming visitors from across the globe into their homes and, along the way, earning a little extra money to help pay the rent, meet their mortgage, or cover rising bills.

We are proud that Airbnb has helped so many New Yorkers through difficult times, but we also understand that as home sharing services like ours become more prevalent, governments are striving to strike the right balance between the transparency and benefits these services provide on the one hand, and the potential for abuses if these sites are overrun with activity that doesn’t help neighborhoods on the other.

Today, the New York City Council is hosting a public hearing on home sharing. We expect Council Members will hear many points of view, including from those who have concerns about parts of this activity.  Some of those concerns are well founded, others less so. We want everyone to know that we’re listening, and that we’re eager to work with all stakeholders in New York, including policymakers, housing advocates, and regular New Yorkers, to ensure that home sharing continues to benefit New York, and that it is done safely and responsibly.

More than 26 million people have now stayed in an Airbnb listing around the world. We know that when a person simply rents out his or her own home — as about 87% percent of our hosts do in New York — the experiences are overwhelmingly positive and very few problems ever occur. Our hosts provide a truly local, personal experience for guests around the world.  Hosts welcome travelers to this city, educate them about their neighborhoods, and recommend places to eat and visit. Guests come to New York and get to stay in neighborhoods underserved by hotels. They come with families, and spend more time and money in more diverse neighborhoods throughout the city.

That also means they are more likely to visit small businesses in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, and see unique parts of New York to which they might not otherwise have gone. In fact, a recent study we commissioned from HR&A Advisors found that Airbnb visits generated an estimated $768 million in economic activity across the City in a single year, with much of that occurring in the outer boroughs.

But just generating economic activity in New York isn’t enough. That’s why we continually work to create the best community of hosts we can, removing hosts who are not living up to the standards expected by the rest of our community or the standards of their surrounding neighborhoods. Last year, we removed more than 2,000 New York City listings because the hosts failed to provide a local and meaningful experience to their guests or a good experience for their neighborhoods. And we continue to focus on ensuring that our guests have a high-quality experience in cities and towns around the world.

Our hosts enjoy a $1 million guarantee in case of eligible damage to their property, and they now have access to a secondary liability insurance policy in case a guest suffers property damage or has an injury or accident in their home or building as well.  These are just part of a series of initiatives to help our hosts create the safest environment for travelers and for their neighbors as they possibly can.

Our hosts already receive 1099 tax forms to help them pay their income tax, and we have also said many times that we want to help our hosts and guests collect and remit their hotel taxes.  We estimate that we could begin collecting and remitting as much as $65 million in hotel taxes this year alone, if only the tax laws were changed to allow companies like ours to help collect taxes and send the money to the government. We believe there is a simple fix and we hope legislators in Albany take up that fix this year.

No one should be snapping up large numbers of housing units, kicking out long term tenants and turning apartments into illegal hotels, and we support laws that ban that activity and increase enforcement and penalties.  But that issue should be treated as entirely separate from the question of whether citizens of New York should be allowed by law to open up their own homes for a few days or a few weeks a year just to make ends meet or meet people from other cultures.  We think it is obvious that they should be allowed to do so, and even those who drafted the 2010 law banning illegal hotels agreed. Now it is time to work together towards a technical fix so regular New Yorkers are no longer swept up in a fight that has nothing to do with them.

The vast majority of  Airbnb hosts use the money they earn to pay the bills and stay in their homes. We look forward to working with all New Yorkers to make sure they can continue to do so while welcoming more travelers to our amazing city.

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.

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