Airbnb “Accountability” strategy 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 addresses four areas related to short-term rentals: Tax collection, Good neighbors, Accountability, and Transparency and privacy. This article of the 5-part series specifically addresses “Accountability”.

Establishing various rules is always a challenge because attempting to meet everyone’s needs is not always possible.  The tool chest has identified a number of areas Airbnb is accountable for in order to establish a level playing field across the globe. Each of these are in more detail in the tool chest. Please consult the report for further explanation on the topic(s) of choice.

  1. Limiting the number of nights – This section addresses the frequency of rentals and examples jurisdictions have taken to regulate it.
  2. Special rules for rent-stabilized and social housing – (aka subsidized housing)
  3. Regulations on the number of listing – This section addresses the quantity of listings hosts can have and examples include cities that have placed limits.
    1. Requiring permits after a certain number of listings
    2. One Host, One Home” – specific cities, San Francisco and New York, have instituted this policy, which there is one home per host.
    3. Registration:
      1. simple, online process;
      2. automatic or interim approval;
      3. pass-through registration
      4. Fighting discrimination – In recent news, Airbnb has been accused of allowing discrimination through their renting process from host to customer. Their new policy as of November 1, 2016 intends to eliminate this.
      5. Three strikes and you’re out – a policy to bar US hosts for violating rules cited by law enforcement that have impacted residents’/neighbors quality of life.
      6. Treating all people-to-people platforms equally

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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