Airbnb, Expedia are backing local hosts in their battles against local laws

Short-term rental advocacy bringing “a turning of the tides” across the U.S.

Airbnb, Expedia Lean on Local Hosts in Battle Against States
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and Expedia CEO Ariane Gorin (Getty)

Short-term rental companies like Airbnb and Vrbo — owned by Expedia Group — are facing big challenges from states and municipalities looking to reduce their local presence. 

But these mega-companies are fighting back, host by host.

These companies are helping their hosts advocate politically at the local level, sometimes with financial backing or organizational support, the Wall Street Journal reported. Advocacy groups are making their presence known across the country through statehouse visits, letter-writing campaigns and community meeting comments.

In some places, these groups are succeeding. A bill in Vermont to restrict short-term rentals was killed with the help of advocates, and in Colorado, a bill that would’ve quadrupled property taxes on short-term rentals fell apart.

Groups are finding strength in numbers. There are more than 790,000 short-term rental hosts in the United States, according to AirDNA, up 35 percent from the start of the pandemic.

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It also helps to have the biggest names in the sector working behind the scenes. Expedia partially funds Rent Responsibly, a national network of short-term rental host groups. Airbnb advocacy and policy teams sometimes have discussions with local groups, helping with letters or providing funding.

“The professionalization of host advocacy efforts is really leading to a turning of the tides in a lot of communities,” Noah Stewart, head of U.S. advocacy at Expedia, told the Journal.

Staying in the shadows is wise of the short-term rental companies, according to one host, as the advocacy pushes are more likely to draw support when they come from neighbors or community members, rather than faceless corporate companies.

There are still plenty of communities that aren’t buying what short-term rental companies and their hosts are selling, especially as hotels, unions and some community groups push back. In the fall, New York City all but banned short-term rentals. 

Holden Walter-Warner

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