Airbnb vows greater cooperation with cities

The home-sharing business promises to pay its "fair share" of taxes, be more transparent with data and ban users from listing investment properties.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
2 min read

Airbnb has promised to pay its fair share of local taxes.

Airbnb has promised to play nice with local governments.

The San Francisco-based home-sharing company on Wednesday published a policy statement in which it vowed to pay its "fair share" of hotel and tourist taxes, share anonymized data on hosts and guests who use the service, and prevent people from listing properties other than their permanent residence. All three of these promises address longtime criticisms of the company.

"We are proud of almost all of the activity that happens on our platform every day," Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote in an accompanying blog post. "But it's become clear that we need to clarify what we will and will not tolerate in our community."

The new policy comes a week after voters in San Francisco, one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, rejected a proposition that would have imposed restrictions on how many days homeowners could rent their homes. Airbnb spent more than $8 million on a campaign to defeat the measure, angering many with some of the messages it used.

Airbnb is just one of dozens of companies that describes itself as part of the sharing economy, the idea of using the Internet to create person-to-person marketplaces. Some services let people swap bicycles, tools and musical instruments. Others, like Airbnb, let people sublet their rooms, or their entire homes when they're not around.

Consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that global revenue across all sharing-economy companies, which is roughly $15 billion today, will increase to around $335 billion by 2025. While such companies promise convenience or an easy way to make a buck, they also raise concerns about various local issues. Critics charge that Airbnb is contributing to tighter housing markets, with landlords taking rental units off the market to capitalize on short-term rentals instead.

In addition to promising to pay taxes to local governments, Airbnb vowed to restrict listings to short-term rentals of permanent residences and provide anonymized data about its users to local governments, things cities have been asking for to help crack down on illegal hosts.

In the weeks leading up to San Francisco's vote, Airbnb angered many in the city with a controversial advertising campaign that offered sarcastic advice on how the city could spend tax dollars it's collecting from the apartment- and house-sharing service. Airbnb quickly pulled the ads and apologized.

The friction continued after its election victory when the company celebrated with a press conference that The New York Times described as a sort of warning shot to other cities thinking about proposing new regulations.