Founded in 2008, Airbnb is an online community and hospitality service that allows local residents to rent out their vacant spaces in almost 200 countries. The company has proved to be quite popular and successful, but recently, its growth has been at the center of controversy and strong opposition in many cities around the world.
The platform, which relies heavily on verified reviews and word-of-mouth, has received numerous complaints lately suggesting that it is altering property markets and causing higher rent prices.
“Airbnb is affecting prices of both rent and purchases, mainly in the center of large cities where tourists visit,” said Jim Edwards, an investigative journalist at Business Insider who has done extensive research on the subject.
Cities such as New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles are at odds with Airbnb because it allows people to rent out their space and make money without having to pay hotel taxes. New York lawmakers further claim that Airbnb could be interfering with residents leasing agreements and is also the reason behind the rising cost of living in the city.
San Francisco was among the first cities to make short-term rentals legitimate. However, last year the city supervisor proposed a bill to limit short-term rentals in the city to 60 days a year, claiming that Airbnb was detrimental to the housing stock. Mayor Ed Lee vetoed the bill and he concluded that the bill would have made rental regulations more challenging and inefficient. Airbnb laws in San Francisco remain the same: unhosted rentals are limited to 90 days a year, while hosted rentals are unlimited.
Recently, Airbnb has also faced problems in South Florida, with Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine and City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado voicing their opposition against Airbnb and short-term rentals. “The administration will aggressively enforce the zoning code of the City of Miami by going after people who are doing commercial activities in residential areas,” said Regalado.
Airbnb spokesman Tom Martinelli believes the mayors are just acting in the interest of the hotel industry in their cities. “To suggest middle-class people pose a threat to the hotel industry is laughable. Our hosts deserve respect and will not be silenced or intimidated,” said Martinelli.
The Miami City Commission will meet tomorrow, Thursday, to discuss a Regalado-sponsored resolution requiring the city to vigorously enforce its zoning laws. Airbnb users will hope to reach an agreement with the city commission as they have with Miami-Dade County, which recently announced it will allow the company to collect a six percent tax from its hosts and return that money to the county.
By Rosaly Casanueva