For generations, young people all around the world have focused on acquiring two key pieces of property: a home and a car. These purchases are partly status-driven, partly practical. And they’re not identical, of course: Cars tend to depreciate, while homes are seen as an investment. But both purchases require large amounts of capital or credit—money that could be used elsewhere. With the advent of technologies like Uber and Airbnb, these long-accepted financial decisions may start to change.
The short-term housing rental service Airbnb has paid back taxes that ran into the millions of dollars to the city of San Francisco, the company said yesterday. The popular San Francisco-based company said in a statement that it has paid in full a back-tax bill. A spokesman declined to say how much the company paid. City Treasurer Jose Cisneros ruled in 2012 that Airbnb owed back taxes. He declined to reveal how much money he collected from Airbnb, saying local law mandates confidentiality on all tax matters.
Just as critics deem ride-sharing programs as veiled taxi service, housing rental services could easily be targeted for being a smokescreen for homemade lodging businesses. “Across the country, cities like San Francisco, Boston, and Madison, Wisconsin, have debated how best to regulate services like Airbnb and other businesses that are part of the so-called ‘sharing economy,’ considering issues ranging from zoning to public safety,” Mayor Ivy Taylor told theCurrent. “To the best of my knowledge, we have not discussed regulating this emerging industry here in San Antonio.”
Does the gig economy exploit workers? Uber and Lyft drivers, HomeJoy cleaners, TaskRabbit handypeople, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk odd-jobbers, and others who provide on-demand services through new online marketplaces work as independent contractors, without the protections afforded to employees. They lack benefits such as minimum wage, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, Social Security contributions and the right to collective bargaining.
Gone are the days of calling your reliable (if somewhat-bland) hotel chain of choice to book a room and boarding a crowded, underserved airplane. Now, you can explore a city in the exact car of your choosing and even journey to an exotic destination without relying on a travel agent to coordinate your excursions and reservations. Travel is tipping toward the do-it-yourself: favoring unique, peer-to-peer services rather than the brand-made itinerary. A handful of new apps and websites are culling local insight and pioneering collaborative services to reclaim the travel industry from major corporations.
Washington County planners may be about to dip their toes into the often-turbulent short-term rental/vacation rental debate. Just a toe, mind you. Planners are not recommending that county officials leap into the Airbnb/VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) issue just yet. Instead, planners could look at the issue as part of the county’s long-range planning work to be adopted by commissioners in late March. That future discussion can’t come fast enough for a Garden Home family that complained to county officials about the short-term rental of a neighboring house. Their complaints led to county planners considering the issue as part of the long-range process.
Australian customers using Airbnb are worried about their privacy being breached, with the company confirming it shares people’s personal information for “marketing purposes”. Airbnb – the site that connects people who need a place to stay with people who have an empty space – is now also demanding some Australian customers upload videos of themselves for verification before letting them book through the room-sharing service.
According to Pew Research, only 19% of Millennials believe most people can be trusted, while 31% of GenX’ers do. If the future is a peer-to-peer marketplace, it will require increasingly reliable, innovative ways to identify those peers. Making sure this emerging economy has high standards and strong values will allow it to continue to expand. Sharing economy companies are beginning to understand the importance of that trust.
It’s not numbers alone that make a flexible global regulatory platform impossible. It’s the scope of regulations that one author is proposing that makes the concept itself border on absurd. There’s no replacement for local regulatory measures (say, you could at one time Uber a motorcycle on Paris’s tiny, urban corridors, but not on Milwaukee’s massive highways) by global fiat.
Oh, Expedia Inc. has its hands full at the moment. This is no time to focus on Airbnb-like sharing economy partnerships or even getting serious beyond testing and learning about vacation rentals through Expedia’s 16-month-old partnership with HomeAway. That was the word emerging out of Expedia Inc.’s fourth quarter and full-year earnings call February 5.