Airbnb provides tools to help regulate short-term rentals for local governments

The release of a 31-page report that serves as a tool for global communities can help shape policy and decisions for regulating short-term rental under the sharing economy platform Airbnb.

Regulating short-term rentals has proven to be a very challenging and contentious issue, especially as the Airbnb (air bed and breakfast) form of accommodation is preferred by business travelers.

Complaints and lawsuits are lodged against hosts, realtors, guests for various reasons; and local governments for allowing hosts or not restricting them. Some governments have set examples for others to follow. For example, San Francisco established occupancy taxes ensure the city can benefit from the growth of this type of accommodation. However, not all local governments are the size of San Francisco and have the resources,  expertise, or even know where to begin to manage this innovative travel industry.

Since Airbnb was founded in 2008, more than 140 million guests have been hosted in almost 200 countries. Airbnb is a person-to-person webpage designed for hosts to generate income by marketing and offering space in one’s home to travelers. This successful business method has grown out of the sharing economy popularity since its inception in 2008. Since then Airbnb has seen a demand grow for solutions to some of the challenges communities face with short-term rentals. Late last year (December 2016) Airbnb announced the release of a 31-page report titled, “The Airbnb Policy Tool Chest”,  outlining a four pronged approach to working with local governments on short-term rentals. This is the first of its kind by the company.  Through several years of experience around the world Airbnb offers “insights gained, lessons learned, and policy options developed through hundreds of collaborations with policymakers across five continents…”

The Airbnb Policy Tool Chest addresses four areas related to short-term rentals:

  1. Tax collection
  2. Good neighbors
  3. Accountability
  4. Transparency and privacy

On page 3 of their report, Airbnb makes an important distinction though for communities looking to this tool for answers in that, “this is not a one-tool-fits-all policy prescription for model legislation. Rules that work in Portugal may not make sense for Philadelphia, yet both places leveraged these policy tools to enact regulations that enable home sharing to thrive, to their immediate and long-term benefit.” You can view the actual report here.

This is important for Michigan because what might work in Traverse City may not necessarily work for other waterfront communities like Port Huron or Marquette. It is essential for each community to identify their needs and desires when addressing short-term rentals.. This is a new issue in Michigan: one where communities can tap the person-to-person sharing model to generate income from Michigan’s travel and tourism industry. On the other hand, communities are also challenged with existing short-term rentals because public reaction indicates it is not wanted in their area.  

Those in Michigan State University Extension that focus on land use provide various training programs on planning and zoning, which are available to be presented in your county.  Contact your local land use educator for more information. In addition, MSU Extension also provides various programs on tourism development in partnership with land use experts across Michigan. 

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