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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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News + PoliticsLies of the "sharing economy" start to collapse

Lies of the “sharing economy” start to collapse

At what point do Lyft, Uber, and Airbnb need to be treated as taxi and hotel companies -- or are we already there?

The “sharing-economy” companies like Lyft, Uber, and Airbnb have managed to avoid the regulations that govern taxis and hotels largely by insisting that they are in a different business, that they are purely technology firms that just connect individuals.

But some recent news reports, mostly in the business press, suggest that, as Steve Hill points out in Salon, this Big Lie is falling apart.

Cab drivers protest Uber, which claims it's not a taxi company
Cab drivers protest Uber, which claims it’s not a taxi company

Hill notes that Lyft, in its much-discussed $500 million deal with General Motors to develop self-driving cars, is also launching a program to allow people who don’t own cars to rent from Lyft and then pick up passengers for money. That’s exactly what traditional cab companies do. And since Uber is likely to follow its competitors lead, soon the “sharing” companies will be doing exactly what the regulated companies are doing – without the regulations.

Airbnb insists it’s not a hotel company, so it shouldn’t be regulated or taxed like a hotel company. But the Wall Street Journal reported in December that the company was in talks with some of the largest residential landlords in the nation to see if they can work out a deal where big apartment complexes start to become …. hotels.

Equity Residential, Avalon Bay Communities, and Camden Property Trust, the three biggest owners of residential property with a combined 240,000 apartments in the US, are discussing “a revenue-sharing model” with Airbnb, the Journal reports. (You need a subscription to see the link).

“Such a deal could place Airbnb under additional scrutiny from lawmakers by seeking to legitimize the use of apartments as hotel rooms,” the Journal reports.

The rental-company execs the Journal interviewed said they would be wary of allowing their apartments to be used full-time for transient occupancy, but the money that can be made from getting rid of long-term tenants, particularly in cities with rent control, is going to be a huge incentive.

In fact, the commercial real-estate site Bisnow is holding a conference in April that features Chip Conley, from Airbnb, talking about “partnering to put more apartments into the sharing economy,” according to a promotional email for the event that was sent to me.

So this idea that somehow the app-based hospitality and lodging sector should be treated differently from the hotel and taxi sector is becoming increasingly silly.

 

 

 

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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9 COMMENTS

  1. Tim– don’t forget that Chip Conley is a noted Hotelier.. Founder of the Joie de Vivre brand… If it sounds like a duck…..

  2. soon the “sharing” companies will be doing exactly what the regulated companies are doing – without the regulations.

    And without being as awful as taxis have been for decades. The people have seen a dramatic demonstration of how “regulation” held back quality and innovation. We don’t want it back.

  3. Thank you Tim. I’m in the taxi business 38 years and have owned a taxi company for 20 years in SF.
    I would like to point out something to the short sighted TNC fans. When a TNC driver is without a passenger and she has an accident her personal insurance company will refuse to pay claims. If she hurts herself there is no Workers Comp. So guess where the cost gets shifted to?
    liability insurance and Workers Comp is $1000 per month PER CAB!

  4. uber is inconsistent with vision zero, you can not have unlimited unregulated “taxis” and have no fatalities or serious injuries on the road.

  5. We should create realistic-looking signs that read “The Ed “Prosperity” Lee Homeless Encampment” or worse and post them there.

Comments are closed.

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