Airbnb And How Government Is Way Behind The Economic Times
Except for the first time Gregg and I went to Paris together, we've rented apartments instead of hotels. I even traded the house I rent in LA for a rental in Paris for a month, taking my late doggie Lucy with me for the month, too.
As for why I like apartments, I prefer to not eat in restaurants every meal and to have the comfort and quirkiness of an apartment. (Our price range is in the quirky zone, like where you rent an apartment in a great area, only it's a seven-floor walkup.) I also like to live as real people live rather than staying in a hotel.
Well, a lot of people are traveling far more affordably by renting rooms or apartments from other people who own or rent them. This is not exactly overjoying the hotel industry and those pols it keeps on a leash.
Andy Kessler writes in the WSJ about Airbnb and how some cities are trying to prohibit people from renting their pads to travelers:
But by far Airbnb's most significant obstacle has come from those who want to protect the status quo--hotel companies and governments collecting lucrative occupancy taxes that they say Airbnb and its hosts avoid paying. New York is Airbnb's most lucrative market, and the company's battle with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is no doubt being watched closely by his peers across the country.
The city's 30-day minimum for apartment rentals is "a very gray law," Mr. Chesky says. The law was intended to crack down on slumlords who run illegal hotels in apartments. But since half of Airbnb's New York bookings involve entire apartments, they technically run afoul of the law. The law's passage four years ago brought out some 500 Airbnb supporters as protesters at City Hall, and the company met with city officials, most of whom had never heard of the company, Mr. Chesky says. "They met with us and said 'We've worked on this for four or five years, we're not rewriting the law and going through another four or five years.' That's when I realized we probably had a problem."
Four months ago, Mr. Schneiderman subpoenaed data on all of Airbnb's 15,000 New York hosts. In pursuing Airbnb, the attorney general may be protecting New York's 14.75% occupancy and sales tax, but he's also not disappointing the city's 30,000-plus unionized hotel workers.
...Airbnb argues that rather than taking away income from the city, its users bring a significant amount of business by encouraging visits by tourists who might not be willing or able to afford the city's daunting hotel rates. Mr. Chesky says that "62% of hosts in New York depend on Airbnb to pay their rent or mortgage."
The sharing economy is still so new, Mr. Chesky says, that his company is lobbying cities around the world to account for it. Sometimes Airbnb loses: Berlin passed a law that, beginning this year, requires a permit for short-term rentals, or hosts are forced to pay a stiff fine. The law won't kill Airbnb in Berlin, but it will impede the free-flowing nature of the business.
'We're not against regulation, we want fair regulation," Mr. Chesky says. "We're trying to help take this from an activity that existed under the table with Craigslist and bring it out of the shadows. We want to work with cities to streamline the process for hosts to pay occupancy taxes," he says. "People ask, 'Why don't you just pay the tax?' Well, it turns out that in cities like New York, you can't just pay the tax, you can't just send them a briefcase of money, you have to change the laws first. Onerous licensing and permitting are designed for large corporations"--not for Airbnb users.
In this economy, allowing somebody to rent out their room or their apartment may be the difference between that person keeping their place and being evicted.