What started out as a web platform in 2008 to help people advertise their short term rentals during tough economic times, has become what seems to be a glamorous business. Besides becoming a phenomenon of the shared economy, Airbnb has also become vernacular – where the use of “Airbnb” refers to anyone offering a short term rental.
Rooted in the sharing of underutilized resources, the shared economy has become big business. People are creating incomes from sharing their homes, sharing their cars, and even sharing talents and skills one project at a time.
It may have been subtle in its growth, but the shared economy has become substantial. And considering that wage growth has been a letdown since the great recession, and the labor force participation rate is the lowest it has been since 1977 (bls.gov); it’s no accident that the popularity of Airbnb and other components of the shared economy (also known as “peer to peer” economy and is often mentioned in combination with “gig economy” or “online economy”) have become part of our daily lives. As the economy struggled the sharing economy grew; and entrepreneurs have grasped at the opportunity to create the likes of Uber, Fiverr, and Airbnb that established specific internet platforms that bring consumers and sellers together.
And as some blame the shared economy for taking away from traditional businesses, the Airbnb phenomenon has been criticized for adding drag to a struggling housing market (consider that the fourth quarter 2014 home ownership rate is the lowest since 1995) by keeping would be home owners renting. But the reality is that the shared economy has always existed; and expands during times of economic uncertainty (you can look at the growth of boarding homes in the 1930’s during the Great Depression). The growth of shared housing is not necessarily the choice that most would consider a preferred lifestyle, as much as it is a personal response to current economic conditions and opportunities.
And while the popularity of temporary shared housing has become a glamorous trend for some, many are trying to cash in. In addition to renting out empty rooms in their homes, some are even buying homes to be used as short term housing. Today’s boarding home is an alternate option for business-persons and tourists visiting cities where hotel rooms are expensive or in short supply.
Although operating an Airbnb would not necessarily attract protest the likes that Uber has seen, it does have the attention of local governments. Although San Francisco and New York were the first to regulate Airbnb’s, Santa Monica CA has recently implemented some of the toughest regulations on short term rentals. Andrew Bender reported (New Regulations To Wipe Out 80% Of Airbnb Rentals In California’s Santa Monica; forbes.com; June 15, 2015) that the new regulations could wipe out 80% of Santa Monica’s operating Airbnb’s by requiring the owner to: stay in property with renter; obtain a business license; and collect an occupancy tax.
Locally, Montgomery County is also trying to grasp the idea of the Airbnb. Changes to the zoning laws earlier this year prohibit such activity in a home, and yet recently enacted legislation regarding room rental and transient tax provides for taxation of short term rentals in homes.
Copyright © Dan Krell
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