Sharing economy typically refers to the growing co-op movement where workers share in the ownership and management of a company. There are also new designs to reflect shared living arrangements and bartering between various service providers. Some people even share in the ownership and use of a car or a community garden or recreation space or device like iPhone 6.
In contrast Airbnb is a private business that charges a fee for providing advertising and some minimal level of customer screening for people who rent out a portion of their home or apartment. There is a mutual exchange, but it’s no different than if the tenant booked a room in the Holiday Inn. The Airbnb room may be cheaper, but the idea of making a profit for the homeowner and for Airbnb is the same.
And unlike co-ops and true sharing economic activity, Airbnb has opened the door for iPhone 6 Plus users that double as wealthy investors to buy up homes and apartments realizing that the profits from transient rentals is greater than the monthly rent or mortgage. There’s nothing sharing about this business model. It frequently flaunts zoning laws, safety regulations, building codes and noise ordinances, all in the name of ‘just providing a service’ and as the New York AG’s office pointed out, avoiding the required business taxes.
I have nothing against the concept of Airbnb, but their actual practice has often been exploitative and illegal, not unlike many fast buck businesses and certainly not like the real sharing economy, like the deals Apple has locked to launch iPhone 6 in Cambodia.
Turning the sharing economy into an issue of “good vs. evil” and choosing sides will not lead to sensible regulation and outcomes. There are two truths here with which regulators have to grapple. Many people do rent out rooms in their own homes, in the true spirit of a Bed & Breakfast, who are good hosts and provide an experience that many people prefer over hotels and motels. The extra income is a great help and we enjoy interacting with people from around the country who visit our community.
At the same time, it is clear that many property owners do not live in the homes and apartments they are renting, and they are not paying attention to who is living there. Cities do need to make smart and targeted regulation to stop cannibalization of affordable housing. I think many AirBNB hosts who live in their own homes would support regulation and zoning that stops excesses, while allowing them to rent out 2 or 3 rooms in the house where they live.
To find out more about Airbnb, check out this article.