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Trying to Regulate Airbnb Out of Existence Will Make Them Stronger

By  |  May 3, 2017, 01:00pm  |  @Gabby_Hoffman

Hotel industry disruptor Airbnb is in big government and the hotel industry’s crosshairs. It was revealed earlier this year that these two forces plan to come together to root the multi-billion company out of existence. Here’s what was uncovered:

The plan was laid out in two separate documents that the organization presented to its board in November and January. In the documents, which The New York Times obtained, the group sketched out the progress it had already made against Airbnb, and described how it planned to rein in the start-up in the future.

The plan was a “multipronged, national campaign approach at the local, state and federal level,” according to the minutes of the association’s November board meeting.

The documents provide an inside look at how seriously the American hotel industry is taking Airbnb as a threat — and the extent to which it is prepared to take action against it.

Two recent examples in D.C. and in San Francisco (its home base) point to Airbnb winning the war of public opinion going forward.

A bill was brought by the D.C. City Council in January to stifle Airbnb’s presence in the nation’s capital. Here’s more on the proposed legislation and its consequences:

The bill, which Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffieproposed in January, would require hosts to register their listings with the city and would limit the number and duration of rental bookings for a given unit of housing. It would also set a 15-day annual cap on what it calls “vacation rentals” (those where hosts do not remain on site overnight), procedures for city inspectors to review listings, and fines of up to $7,000 for hosts who violate the measure’s provisions.

Anti-Airbnb forces like ShareBetter, a coalition of local politicians and members of the hotel establishment, have launched video campaigns to undermine their efforts under the guise of rallying for “affordable housing.” Even more cofounding is why would this D.C.-based group use an actress residing in New York to rally people to their cause? Here’s the ad:

 

In response to this, Airbnb shot back at ShareBetter with the following statement: “This ad is another example of ShareBetter and the Working Families Party doing the bidding of the hotel industry—attacking middle-class families who home-share to make ends meet, and travelers who depend on home-sharing to visit communities which lack hotels like those east of the Anacostia River.”

A similar situation recently plagued Airbnb in San Francisco, in which the company settled with the City by the Bay earlier this week. Here’s more on the settlement:

The legal settlement with the city over unregistered listings marks the end of a multiyear battle that pit affordable housing advocates and some local officials against home-sharing start-ups and the wider tech community. Ultimately, Airbnb and its co-defendant, HomeAway, conceded to many of the city’s demands, but also showed other start-ups that there is a payoff to flexing some legal muscle and going up against regulators.

Under the settlement, Airbnb agreed to build software that would automatically send the city the names and address of hosts who sign up locally. People who are already hosts have 8 months to register.

Cities like D.C. and SF may attempt to regulate Airbnb out of existence, but they won’t succeed. Market forces and positive public opinion of the company will continue to keep the company afloat.