Airbnb’s “Transparency and privacy” policy announced in 2016 tool box document

Shared economy platform giant, Airbnb, announces a series of four steps for local communities and cities they can take to regulate their short-term rentals.

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 (APTC) addresses four areas related to helping jurisdictions regulate rental housing: Tax collection, Good neighbors, Accountability, and Transparency and privacy. This article is the last of the 5 that specifically addresses “Transparency and privacy”.

Airbnb released their first “Transparency Report” which summarized the types of requests the company receives “from law enforcement, the sources of the inquiries, and how often we respond to them.” The report, slated to be released annually, breaks that information down by type and country location.

As of November 2015, information on the following data points will be shared:

  • Total annual economic activity generated by Airbnb  in certain cities
  • The number of hosts who avoided eviction or foreclosure by sharing their home with Airbnb
  • The percentage of Airbnb hosts who are sharing their permanent homes
  • The total number of Airbnb guests visiting those locations, average number of guests per listing, and average number of stays
  • The safety record of Airbnb listings

Specific cities with Airbnb statistics can be searched by visiting the Community Compact Data Dashboard. For example, in Denver, 83% of hosts share their permanent home, 11% were able to  avoid eviction, and $6,500 per year is the typical host income. For a typical listing, 62 nights are booked per year and the average annual number of guests per home listed is 32.7. (At the time of writing this article no data was available for Michigan.)

Airbnb continues to work with certain cities and provide better information about listings under their fourth approach, “Transparency and policy”.

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.” (A link to the actual report is available here.)

Michigan too has its own challenges and unique state laws on this topic.  Some of these solutions may seem appropriate it is wise to consult your local experts involved with planning and zoning, as well as tourism development.

In addition, 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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