Concerned that short-term rentals “may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in [their] communities,” U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (California), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii) are urging the Federal Trade Commission to launch a formal investigation into the commercial use of short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO.
From yesterday’s letter to Edith Ramirez, the Chairwoman of the FTC:
“We write today to urge the Federal Trade Commission to study and quantify the degree to which the rapidly expanding short-term lodging rental market consists of persons or firms acting in a commercial manner by renting out entire residences or multiple residences simultaneously.
This distinction is critical to Congress and state and local lawmakers as we seek to assess the wide-ranging impact of the short-term rental industry on the communities in which they operate. In recent years, we have seen the emergence and rapid growth of companies like Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, and Flipkey. 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. Furthermore, we are concerned that communities and consumers may be put at risk through violations of sensible health, safety, and zoning regulations under state and local law.”
While in agreement that more information and data is needed to properly assess the impacts of the short-term rental industry on communities, the Senators note that “the platform companies, which are the best positioned to provide this type of information, seem reluctant to do so.” And as such, they’re now urging the FTC to act.
In related short-term rental news, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos has been working with City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office to draft a number of amendments to San Francisco’s recently adopted short-term rental legislation which has been challenged by Airbnb, in order to both address Airbnb’s stated objections “and fulfill the intent of a fair, enforceable ordinance.”