It’s been a tough year for Airbnb.
At the beginning of the summer, we detailed seven different places that were ramping up regulations against the home-sharing giant. On this side of the pond, New York, San Francisco and Santa Monica were leading the way, with the cities’ respective local governments levying occupancy taxes, imposing rental time limits, and requiring hosts to remain in listings for the totality of guests’ stays. It’s all part of an effort to discourage the proliferation of “profit object” neighborhoods, and reserve apartments and townhouses for actual residents, as opposed to visitors.
That fight has expanded even more in the months since, and it’s clear Airbnb’s made some enemies around the country. The company lost lawsuits in Miami Beach, Palm Beach and Portland, and just lost a bitter fight with Jersey City (a bedroom community of New York, situated just across the Hudson), despite spending $4.2 million in pro-Airbnb advertisements; the city voted overwhelmingly to crack down on short-term rentals. And this week, in even bigger news, Airbnb had to at least remove half of their Boston listings — a total somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 listings.
In November of 2018, Boston passed a law requiring Airbnb to share information about listings with city officials, and take down listings that didn’t comply with city rules. Airbnb took issue and filed a lawsuit, but eventually lost this past August. Listings had a grace period to register with the city (which made room for just 737 short-term rentals) and as of December 1st, any non-filed stays had to be removed by Airbnb. As much as it must’ve hurt, the brand cooperated with the ordinance.
Despite the setback, Airbnb is looking out for its long-term health. The company is going public next year and needs controversy to go away, not continue mounting. Keeping those listings, after all, would’ve been illegal. But for travelers and consumers, who care more about Airbnb’s beds and convenience than its IPO, regulations against the company hurt. The private listings that remain become more expensive, hotels take on an outsized importance (in a country where the cheap, efficient, Euro-style hostel has not yet arrived) and it’s tougher to organize a weekend away.
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