Airbnb Decides to Act Like a Grown-up, Not a Start-up, and Play Nice With Cities

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Protest in Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco
Photo: Steve Rhodes / Demotix/Copyright 2015 Demotix, all rights reserved.

Airbnb is trying to grow up. With the “Airbnb Community Compact” they’re making a promise of “transparency” to the cities they’ve been squatting in, unregulated, for the past several years. And they’re promising to pay what they see as their fair share of taxes.

They also hired Chris Lehane, a former White House crisis manager.

"We are 100 percent committed to being constructive partners with regulatory agencies and policymakers. Our community wants to pay their fair share," the statement reads. The company is a huge success, but there have been problems. There have been complaints of full-time Airbnb landlords, orgies, rape, sudden death, and gunplayThe company is trying to change the conversation by convincing everyone that, among other things, "our community has demonstrated that it can self-regulate."

The primary effort of the compact, it seems, is to remind cities just how much money they can add to their coffers. In New York alone, Airbnb claims its economic impact is $1.960 billion. (They estimate that $5.82 billion in revenue is generated in its five most active cities.)

Of course, the company’s new-found munificence follows a nasty regulatory battle in San Francisco, where a ballot initiative seeking to limit users to 75 days of rental time, while beefing up penalties, was voted down last Tuesday. They company poured $8 million into a controversial citywide ad campaign to defeat the proposal. 

In New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called BS on the statement, characterizing it as no more than “a transparent ploy by Airbnb to act like a good corporate citizen when it is anything but. The company has all of the information and tools it needs to clean up its act. Until it does, no one should take this press release seriously.”