The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop #00587

Submission Number:
Gail Armand
Initiative Name:
The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
Aloha We are a semi-retired couple living on the island of Hawaii, where despite the rural environment one of the highest costs of living in the country prevails. We chose to come here after a series of economic events outside our control (Northridge earthquake in the main) caused our condo to drop in value such that we could not sell it. We rented it out, and recovery took so long we needed to do a 1031 exchange at sale time or even then contribute funds to close the sale. We chose a house on the Big Island as the next property would also be a rental - this time a vacation rental. Our plans were to move there upon retirement. Next came the very large economic downturn of 2008. My husband was laid off, and my income alone would not support us. The house in which we lived lost half its value. We faced a decision common to those in our situation: would we deplete our life savings holding onto that house, since our bank refused to renegotiate the mortgage terms, or would we let it go in a short sale. After the tenants we lined up to live in the house decided at the last minute to live elsewhere, our choice was decided for us. We were already committed to the move, as I had officially retired, and our possessions were sold or on their way to Hawaii. We used the savings we were able to retain to start over with a small house built deliberately to be a honeymoon suite, near the volcano, and near the property we already owned. That small house is not suitable for full time living. It is meant as transient accommodations. We are fully registered as providing same, as I am also a registered celebrant so I can perform weddings. We pay nearly $1000 in taxes every month to the State of Hawaii from this rental. It turned out that the honeymoon space became one of the most popular places for honeymooners on the island. People come from all over the world to stay there, because it is very special. It is playful and romantic, and meant for people to stay a few days while they visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Were such places to be outlawed, it would be a terrible thing not only for us, but for the economy of this island. Many many people would not be able to pay their mortgages, and keep up with their bills, without the added income. We would face a shortfall that would mean we would have to sell everything at a loss again, and go back to the mainland. We would not be able to afford to buy or rent a reasonable place to live, so would become nomads with a trailer. Airbnb has proved itself to be the very best platform for marketing our special little house. People from everywhere have grown to trust how they back up their hosts and guests. Private home stays benefit everyone except the hotel industry. Opening up one's home to guests from afar leads to trust between people who are different from each other. There is a horrible trend toward divisiveness everywhere. The home stay people are sustaining a different trend. Not only is the money of travelers spread more equitably when corporate industry does not take it all, but the choice adds to the diversity a large segment of travelers seek in their journeys. The idea that home stays and specialty vacation rentals are depleting the long term rental pool of houses is not only a far stretch, but it ignores the far greater number of second and third and fifth homes owned by the uber wealthy in places like Hawaii that are never rented out and seldom occupied at all. It ignores the bank owned inventory of homes sitting vacant all over the country. To decide to do away with short term rentals by individuals would serve to aggravate the terrible and growing gap between the rich .001% and the other 99.99% who often have to scramble to pay bills or borrow to cover emergencies. Thank you for reading this and considering the contributions we make to the diversity of our country. Mahalo nui, Gail Armand