Three Democratic senators have signed a letter asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the popular home-sharing service Airbnb.
The three Democrats — Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Dianne Feinstein of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — allege that Airbnb does not do enough to discourage commercial operators who put up multiple homes for rent. This supposedly allows them to operate illegal hotels and discourages affordable housing.
The three senators wrote in their letter:
On one hand, these firms have sparked innovation, increased competition, and have provided new means by which our constituents can earn extra income. On the other hand, we are concerned that short-term rentals may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in our communities. We have also read troubling reports of racial discrimination on some short-term rental platforms.
Airbnb released a statement defending the platform as enabling middle-income homeowners to earn extra money. “The vast majority of our hosts in Massachusetts, California, Hawaii and across the county are middle class people who depend on home sharing as a way to address economic inequality. According to a study conducted by former National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, the typical Airbnb host makes approximately $7,530 by sharing their home 66 days per year,” the Airbnb spokesman said, according to The Hill.
The FEC is in the process of studying Airbnb. Their ultimate report will be non-binding.
The Democrats are not the only ones who would like to see short-term home rental sites go away. The hotel industry sees them as a threat to its bottom line. Earlier this week, Airbnb rolled out partnerships with three travel management companies to expand its business travel clientele.
Here we have the classic Baptists and bootleggers coalition at work to stop the growth of short-term home leasing services. Progressives want to crush them because they’re supposedly racist and threaten affordable housing. The hotel industry wants to crush them because they divert business, especially from cheap motels. Why would someone stay at an Econo Lodge or Motel 6 when he could get a room even cheaper through Airbnb with the same amenities?
Consumers are benefiting, property owners are benefiting and communities are winning with Airbnb and services like it. The government should stay out of the way of innovation and allow willing buyers and willing sellers to connect and do business.