While Airbnb continues to grow around the world, it’s run into some pushback in certain areas. One of those areas has been New York City, where last summer it saw one of its members fined for violating the city’s hotel laws. (It eventually won that case.) In a blog post this morning, co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky laid out some of the things that the company is willing to do to get into the good graces of regulators and lawmakers in that market.
Airbnb is working hard to get regulators to better understand and embrace its peer-to-peer housing marketplace not as a hotel replacement or alternative, but as a community of regular folks who share their homes — many of whom are doing so to help pay the bills. It’s released numerous studies along the way that illustrate that point in various cities, while also underlying the economic impact of its marketplace to different areas.
In the blog post, Chesky says that New York City is no different. In that market, the company has more than 15,000 community members who list their homes on its platform. According to Chesky, 87 of those are not running peer-to-peer hotels, but rent the home in which they live, and on average fall at the median income level. More than half depend on Airbnb to help pay the bills. Furthermore, 87 percent live outside of the mid-Manhattan hotel corridor, so they’re not exactly competing with the incumbents in that market.
To remove some of the legal hurdles to its community there, Chesky wrote that the company is looking to make a few concessions along the way. First of all, the company urged the jurisdiction to create a new law that would pave the way for regular people — the 87 percent of hosts who live outside of mid-Manhattan, and those who are renting their own homes — to participate in its community.
Along the way, he says that it “makes sense” for members to pay occupancy tax with exceptions for some under certain thresholds, and says that Airbnb will work with New York to streamline the process of collecting occupancy tax from its members. The company is also committed to working with the city to remove so-called bad actors in the community who create a disturbance by creating a 24/7 Neighbor Hotline to service those complaints.
Like other new technology startups that are disrupting existing industry, Airbnb is finding that as it grows, it will be necessary to work with local officials to get its service better understood and to have laws passed when necessary to make it legal in certain jurisdictions. On that front, last year it hired public policy guru David Hantman to lead that charge.
Airbnb is also doing more from a product standpoint to ensure safety and accountability. In the spring it launched its Verified Idenitfication effort to connect users’ online and offline identities. By doing so, it hopes to foster more trust between its guests and hosts.