2019 in Review: Our Partnerships with Cities Around the World

In 2015, we released our Community Compact outlining our commitment to work with governments to create clear, 21st century rules for short-term rentals.

Our compact was centered on a few key tenets:

  1. Help our community pays their fair share of taxes.
  2. Promote responsible home sharing that makes cities stronger. 
  3. Share data about our community to inform lawmakers’ decisions about the best home sharing policies for their communities. 

And as 2019 has shown us, new opportunities to bring our Compact to bear are emerging every day. This December alone, we have and will continue to launch a number of regulatory partnerships that will support governments with technology-powered tools.

Remitting $2 Billion in Tourism and Occupancy Taxes

One of the key ways in which we are leveraging our platform in order to partner with governments — and in turn, helping them to benefit from our community — is through collection and remittance of occupancy taxes typically levied on guests’ overnight stay. Just four years after reaching our first tax agreement with the city of Portland, Oregon, we expect to close out 2019 with a landmark cumulative $2 billion in tourist and occupancy taxes that have been collected and remitted to local governments on behalf of our hosts worldwide.

Through over 400 agreements with local, state, territorial and national governments – including the US, Canada, Latin America and Europe – we have streamlined tourist tax collection for hosts, most of whom are sharing their homes for extra income and may not be equipped for complex accounting processes.

In the US alone, Airbnb collects tourist taxes on behalf of hosts in thousands of jurisdictions. 72 percent of bookings made for Airbnb listings in the US are already covered by collection and remittance of tourism or hotel taxes — almost three in every four reservations. Airbnb is collecting these taxes in nearly every top US city, including Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, among others. And we are committed to increasing this number, including by supporting legislation in New York that would permit collection and remittance of this tax — as well as by working with certain jurisdictions to support host remittance of income taxes.

Many cities in Europe are also covered, including Amsterdam, Florence, Lisbon and Milan, amongst other cities. In France, our tax collection now covers over 28,000 cities. 

This work is not only simplifying tourism-related tax collection for our hosts and guests – it is also generating significant funds for cities and states, helping to pay for policy priorities or support critical services. In France, this revenue is directed to cities to support local tourism projects. In Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Portland, a portion of the new revenue has been used to support affordable housing. In Chicago, LA and Boston, a portion also supports aid for the homeless.

How We Worked with Cities This Year

For years, Airbnb has worked with cities to support common sense short-term rental regulations. In 2016, we partnered with Chicago to create a product solution enabling hosts to register with the city through our platform. To make this system work, we counseled city officials as they built an extensive system to meet their specific needs. We later implemented similar tools in San Francisco and New Orleans, among other cities. 

This year, we began offering similar support from Seattle to Hamburg – directing hosts to the cities’ registration portals and requiring that they include their permit number on their listing – and we will ensure that any listing without a license number in those cities is no longer available as a short-term rental on our platform. 

Across the pond, we announced that we will be undertaking a roadshow in the United Kingdom to collaborate with hosts, neighborhoods and politicians on proposals for a clear, modern and simple registration system for short-term rentals nationwide.

Of course, not every city wants or needs an extensive, technology-intensive registration system. That’s why we have worked with many others cities to support efforts that fit the needs of their communities. 

In Buffalo, NY, the second most popular destination for Airbnb guests in New York State — we have worked with city officials and our local host community for the last three years to craft new, fair short-term rental regulations that are expected to go into effect in late December. By bringing all stakeholders to the table, Buffalo officials have found a path forward that will allow any city residents to share their home to make extra income, with some restrictions on rentals that are not the host’s primary residence, while establishing a host registration system and reasonable licensing fee structure. As these rules come into effect, we will support the city by educating our host community on these new obligations.

More than 5,500 miles away, in Buenos Aires, city officials passed a new short-term rental law this November creating a free, online registry for hosts, setting basic safety standards and establishing a positive precedent for inclusive regulation of short-term rentals across South America. We will work with the city over the coming year on a plan to implement the new law, make hosts aware of the requirements, and support its implementation.

These recent examples build on our more than 500 regulatory partnerships with local governments and organizations around the world, including Portland, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Jose and London.

Through our work with cities, we have learned that our community can thrive even when regulations are put in place, as shown through the 2019 results of major regulatory events in San Francisco and Japan. In both markets, the resolution of several years of debate brought about new rules and regulations, and after a temporary period of adjustment, our community in both cities has continued to expand. 

Finding Common Ground

As a company operating in more than 100,000 cities around the world, one of our priorities is to work collaboratively with cities. As such, we view litigation on behalf of our community as a last resort. 

Over the course of 2019 we reached legal settlements in Boston, Miami Beach and Palm Beach. Earlier this week, in Santa Monica, we announced an agreement with the city that will ensure all Airbnb listings are in compliance with its short-term rental ordinance. We have worked closely with city staff to find a way to both preserve their ability to enforce the rules and to help fund affordable housing programs. Under the agreement, we will take down illegal short-term listings upon city notice, monitor and remove multiple listings that exceed the city’s home-share limit, and collect and pay a $2 per night fee to help support affordable housing.

These settlements have not only resolved the majority of our outstanding US city litigation, but have also created regulatory certainty for our host community, providing long-term stability and ensuring home sharing has a lasting place in the fabric of each city. 

Promoting Healthy Tourism

From the financial opportunity that our platform creates for our hosts – who keep the vast majority of what they charge – to guests increasingly choosing Airbnb for more environmentally friendly accommodations, our platform lends itself to supporting local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable tourism. Along with collaborating with cities on short-term rental regulation, Airbnb’s Office of Healthy Tourism is broadening and deepening our partnerships with governments and NGOs, as well as destination marketing organizations and local nonprofits, to help them harness these benefits of the short-term rental economy.

Take the example of our Airbnb Africa Academy, an initiative to encourage entrepreneurship in rural and under-resourced communities across the continent. By working with community-based and grassroots organisations – including in South Africa and Kenya – the Academy is providing local hosts with the information and tools they need to successfully access the economic possibility of our platform while further expanding the role of local, healthy and inclusive opportunities in African tourism.

This year, we worked with officials and residents of Kamaishi, Japan – which was devastated by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 — as they hosted the Rugby World Cup, helping them use tourism as a way to revitalize the city, share their culture and traditions with international visitors, and gain more awareness as a destination across the world. 

Through these partnerships – and many more from Seattle to Canada – we are helping cities, states, and nations keep most of the economic benefits of tourism in the communities where it happens. 

Building Trust

Some of our most important work with cities includes safeguarding trust both among our own host-and-guest community and across the communities in which we operate.

Last month, we announced a series of new initiatives, including a ban on so-called “party houses” that disrupt communities. And last week, we announced the latest step toward protecting the communities in which our hosts and guests live – a dedicated line for mayors and city officials to connect directly with Airbnb representatives regarding our new policies.

We recognize our work on behalf of our hosts, guests, and neighbors must evolve as the use of our platform evolves. Going forward into 2020, we look forward to continuing this development and to building on the promises of our Community Compact as we advocate for our community and foster partnership with even more cities across the US and the globe.