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After Prop F debacle in San Francisco, home sharing company tries to set things right
Airbnb wants to turn over a new leaf.
In a new post on its Public Policy Blog, the company has released what it’s calling a Community Compact, a lofty-worded document that plainly seeks to restore the broader public’s faith in Airbnb as not just a money-hungry tech company but as a positive contributor to society.
The most intriguing piece of the document seems to be a direct response to arguments from San Francisco Prop F supporters, who believed that by removing permanent housing from the market, the Airbnb marketplace was hiking rent prices and killing affordable housing in the city.
But there are other components to the piece as well.
After channeling Abraham Lincoln in a bombastic introduction setting the Airbnb service on the same idealistic plane as the United States government—"of the people, by the people and for the people"—and then providing stats around how Airbnb boosts economic opportunity, the Compact gets into the meat around how Airbnb wants to do better by the community.
First, the company says it wants to work with each city personally as they will each have different concerns when it comes home sharing. And, in spite of all those passive-aggressive ads plastered around San Francisco two weeks ago, Airbnb says it will make sure its "community pays its fair share of [tourist and/or hotel] taxes."
Second, Airbnb says it will release annual "Home Sharing Activity Reports" in cities with significant community presence. The reports will include various important housing figures, including amount of income earned by a typical host in that city, number of hosts who avoided eviction by sharing their home, and number of days a typical listing is rented.
Finally, in the last section of the Compact, Airbnb describes in somewhat ambiguous terms that it will limit short-term rentals so as not to impact cities with shortages of permanent homes. In other words, rein in home sharing to provide for more affordable housing.
I reached out to the company to see what this means in plain English, but I just received more marketing speak from Nick Papas, Airbnb's Director of Public Affairs:
“Our community -- and our business -- are stronger when guests are staying in primary residences and interacting with hosts. We will be releasing anonymized information about the profile of the community -- including information showing how many hosts are sharing permanent homes -- so cities can see if we are walking the walk. Our experience is that our community is very good about making decisions in the best interest of their communities.”
While, thanks to the company’s recent marketing fumble in San Francisco, this “Community Compact” really just looks like an attempt by the company to make itself look the good guy, I’m also hesitant to write it off. After all, according to Airbnb, more than 60 million people have booked a listing and spent the night under a stranger’s roof. Clearly, there are enough people who want to make this work without adversely impacting ordinary residents.
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Airbnb.com is the “Ebay of space.” The online marketplace allows anyone from private residents to commercial properties to rent out their extra space. The reputation-based site allows for user reviews, verification, and online transactions, for which Airbnb takes a commission. As of June, 2009, the San Francisco-based company has listings in over 1062 cities in 76 countries.