Airbnb and the Rise of the Sharing Economy

Booked a room on Airbnb recently? Sorry, but you probably broke the law. That is, unless you’re staying in Portland or San Francisco, the first two cities to allow the popular room-sharing service to collect taxes from its rentals.

Unlike many U.S. cities, which prohibit (but often don’t pursue action against) short-term leases, Portland and San Francisco are taking major steps to regulate Airbnb’s transactions.

You can read more about that in Travel Weekly’s article, which also covers off on recent rising tensions in New York. Look a little deeper and you’ll find recent reports on New Orleans and Malibu residents organizing to put an end to short-term rentals completely, sparking increased hotel development and local government intervention, among other things.

But, what’s all the fuss about? For years, well-known companies like eBay, Craigslist and Car2Go, have helped consumers who want to cut down on waste and funnel income directly back into their individual communities. Their popularity brought about a whole new turn of phrase, “the sharing economy,” to describe the amalgam of renting, re-selling and splitting use of a product or service happening today.

The trouble is that the latest darlings of the sharing economy, Airbnb and Lyft (a ridesharing service that works like Uber, only with oversized pink mustaches) have been innovating and operating… well… less than legally.

So, what’s next and how will future legislation affect the Airbnb and the sharing economy? Already, Boston is considering its own options, and in Brazil—where Airbnb provided an easy solution for World Cup visitors who couldn’t find hotel rooms—regulators have embraced the company.

With increasing demand of the sharing economy, now is a critical time for businesses and consumers alike to be paying attention to — and influencing — the evolving legislative landscape. We should be asking questions like, “How are we enabling innovation … or inhibiting it?” For traditional players, this could be make or break, as new age competitors spring up, take flight and steal market share.

Post Date
November 3, 2014
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