Airbnb looks to settle old fights, faces new threats
Airbnb will have more chances to influence policy in the next few months, as Los Angeles and Miami Beach consider new regulations.
Airbnb’s regulatory roller-coaster ride has taken new twists as the company enters its second decade. When the home rental site sent employees updates on its talks with local governments in June, it heralded positive momentum with politicians in two of its “toughest markets,” Barcelona and Berlin. It decried a “problematic” bill passed by the Pennsylvania House that would obligate the company to take down illegal listings. Meanwhile, “regulation/supply issues” in Japanese cities have hurt key growth metrics, according to internal emails viewed by The Information.
One approach Airbnb has begun taking is to circumvent restrictions in U.S. cities, where governments tend to favor tougher rules, by seeking out more favorable regulations at the state level. Lawmakers in Tennessee passed an Airbnb-backed bill this spring that would bar cities like Nashville, one of Airbnb’s top markets, from enforcing stricter regulations. Arizona lawmakers have passed a similar measure, and Florida lawmakers have debated the idea.
Cities have been turning up the heat on Airbnb as concerns mount that the growth in short-term vacation rentals is exacerbating the housing shortage. To buffer the impact on the overall housing supply, cities generally look to enforce registration requirements, limit the number of nights a unit can be rented, or restrict the number of homes that a person can put on short-term rental platforms. Airbnb investors say the company faces its toughest challenge when cities pass measures on all three fronts at the same time, as happened in the last year or so in San Francisco, Madrid, Toronto and San Diego.
What could spell trouble for Airbnb is if more cities limit how many entire homes can be put on the platform. Unhosted rentals—in which a host isn’t on site during a renter’s stay—make up the vast majority of Airbnb stays. Homes that are used almost exclusively for short-term rentals—often put up on the site by investors—are also growing faster than homes where owners sometimes live and always live, according to emails viewed by The Information.
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