Airbnb and HomeAway are facing calls from a group of lawmakers and community groups that want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the firms, alleging the home rentals are operating as hotels.
In a letter to the FTC, the group said, without data on how these services impact cities, it’s hard to put into place effective policy.
“As city elected leaders and community-based organizations, we are grappling with the impact of STRs [short-term rentals] in our communities, a process which has been made more difficult by the lack of reliable, complete data from the industry,” said the group in the letter. “To be effective, we need to know the extent to which STR companies are permitting, or even encouraging, individuals or firms that use their platforms to rent multiple and/or unhosted properties … Permitting or encouraging commercial operators would stand in stark contrast to the public image of homesharing presented by the industry.”
The lawmakers and consumer groups went on to say in the letter that city leaders know the laws must evolve as internet-based platforms facilitate change in the short-term rental and hospitality industries, and as a result, elected leaders and stakeholders are working to determine best practices for integrating the new players into its communities in a way that is fair. “Cities are struggling to address urgent shortages of affordable housing, and there is evidence that commercial interests in the STR industry are removing residential units from housing markets and thereby contributing to even higher rents.”
In a report, Airbnb fired back, saying: “The vast majority of hosts in Seattle are sharing their permanent homes, and many depend on this extra income to help make ends meet,” an Airbnb spokesperson said in response to the FTC letter. “In fact, last year, over 350 people used the money they earned sharing their space in Seattle to avoid eviction or foreclosure. We are eager to work with lawmakers and regulators at any level of government who want to learn more about how homesharing helps the middle class address the issue of economic inequality.”