District of Columbia
The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
I am submitting comments for the FTC's call on the home sharing economy. My business specializes in the conservation of energy, forests, and water via working with small business, tribes, and non-profits world-wide. The company devotes considerable pro-bono time to help needy and fixed-income populations weatherize homes, create renewable energy, lower monthly bills through energy efficiency measures, and produce revenue to pay basic bills through sharing platforms (e.g. AirBnB and Relay Rides) or through writing federal or state grants. Here are my most proud moments of operating in the sharing economy: Case Study #1: Eunice is an African American, Retired, and Disabled Grandmother living on a modest fixed income from social security and a small pension. She is a home owner living on Capitol Hill. She raised her granddaugher when her daughter was not capable of doing so. Eunice needed additional funds to cover basic bills and caring for dependents but due to her walking disability (which is not covered under Social Security) and lack of a car, she lacks the access to get to a job. A resident heard about my business and put me in touch with Eunice. On a pro-bono basis, my company helped Eunice put up an AirBnB listing. She was certain that being African American her listing would not produce enough revenue. Knowing the international platform of AirBnB I knew she would be proven wrong. Almost two years later, Eunice is paying her bills, saving for the future, buying furniture to support a second grandchild and "thanks god daily for AirBnB" she tells me. She complies with the laws of paying DC's Annual Family Rental Fee, Hotel Taxes (14.5%), and state and federal taxes and other DC requirements. Eunice's life is not subsidized by the federal government, she is an entrepreneur working for herself, and creating a comfortable place for other guests who are also on limited budgets to stay in DC. She's hosted speakers at the White House, artists, and other professionals from the creative class. She is happy and motivated! Case Study #2: Dan is 22 years old. His mother Angie suffered from Huntington's disease for 21 years and died from it like Dan's Uncle and Grandfather. Dan at 22 has no parents. Dan's mother was my friend. When she died suddenly I checked on him. The first thing he said was "I need help paying my mother's mortgage" and "my mother has incredible medical debt as well". Dan's mother owns a small Capitol Hill rowhome with a separate apartment. Dan also cannot drive and works at a local liquor store where he can walk but makes a little over minimum wage. College was not an option because he cared for his ailing mom. The apartment was rented at some point but a renter stiffed them on paying rent and walked out without removing furniture or cleaning. I told Dan to not despair that we would get a team of friends and loved ones to clean up the apartment, get donated furniture, put a listing on AirBnB for him, and work on covering the mortgage. A week later, family friends, work colleagues, and I, painted, cleaned, and using donated furniture items, decorated the apartment. The money from renting his apartment rental will cover the gap in what he cannot afford. Daniel's mother wanted to rent out the place but had too many medical issues to deal with the situation left with her. Thankfully for AirBnB, which has a great platform to protect Dan from another bad renter, he will pay his bills and hold on to the house that will be his future. Huntington's disease is genetic and it is highly probably Daniel will suffer the same fate. Preparing for this medical truth really should be done at 22 not at 45 likely his mother. AirBnB will help him do it. I know it and devoted 40 pro bono hours fixing the place so he can fend for himself through homesharing--which is better than welfare. With homesharing economy, this phrase is relevant: "Feed a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he feeds himself a lifetime.