The Battle is Not Over for Airbnb

The defeat of Proposition F in San Francisco is not the end of political struggles for Airbnb.  (See my earlier piece.)  According to the LA Times, the internet lodging rental service faces more attempts by municipalities across the country who want to impose more regulations on the $25 billion company. Here’s a part of the Times’ report:

At a Wednesday press conference, a top Airbnb executive said the company plans to build on its success in the Bay Area, where it relied on a “people-to-people voting bloc” of hosts, guests and supporters that mobilized to knock on hundreds of thousands of doors in the run-up to Tuesday’s election. In a sign that the company is girding for more battles, Airbnb global policy head Chris Lehane said that the company will help develop “homesharing guilds” in 100 new cities around the world.

“We’re going to build on the momentum coming out of San Francisco,” Lehane told reporters Wednesday.

Critics say they aren’t giving up either. Holding the Web-based short-term lodging companies responsible “goes to the heart of their business model – which is to list anything and everything, regardless of whether it’s legal, regardless of whether it’s registered,” said Dale Carlson, cofounder of ShareBetter SF, which championed the Yes on F campaign. “We’ll go back to the ballot again.”

He predicted similar political campaigns will spread well beyond San Francisco. “Airbnb isn’t going to be looking at spending $10 million if it has to fend off these ballot measures in eight, nine, 10 cities at a time,” he said.

Had Proposition F passed, it would have required platforms like Airbnb to regularly report to the city on how often units were rented. It also would have limited the number of days a unit could be offered to travelers annually, and allowed neighbors to sue violators.

The City of San Francisco claimed that Airbnb is contributing to the housing shortage in the City.  But this argument is just a red herring to gain support from the housing industry against the internet company.  Airbnb argued that the housing problems in the Bay Area was already a problem: 

Airbnb said the measure would have done nothing to lessen the housing crisis in San Francisco, where the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment has hit $4,000 a month. It says most cities haven’t tried to impose requirements and penalties on listing websites, which they said would be problematic because rental platforms collect different kinds of data from hosts.

Governments just can’t stand the idea of commerce being successful without taking a piece of the pie.  They will go to any length to require companies and individuals to pay fees and taxes for their success.  It is this sort of mentality that keeps the economy stagnant and keeps people poor.  It’s time for freedom from bureaucratic tyranny, allowing businesses to flourish!