The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
I am an airbnb host for the following reasons: We own a 5 bedroom house, purchased during the "easy loan" period in 2005. Since, our four children have graduated from high school. THREE are attending college next year. We do not qualify for grants and only qualify for a small government backed student loan (about 10% of the total cost for college). I was an elementary school teacher but left in 2011 to pursue my LLM, and then I founded a new nonprofit in 5/2013. The nonprofit is currently unfunded while I develop the programs so that I have something tangible when approaching potential funders. My husband is a farmer and prices have come down twice this year. We originally received health insurance from my teaching job, but have been self-insuring since 2011 at $1,800/month (unfortunately, Obamacare's prices were the same). We also contribute $300/month to my mother's housing. We are what one refers to as the "sandwich generation" - supporting both college-aged children and parents, and are the ultimate squeezed dry middle class family who live frugally and take no vacations. Our current employment situation/income level (I volunteer my time at my nonprofit until funded) means we cannot afford to move and/or qualify for any kind of loan. And so...to help generate a little bit of income, I substitute teach (for $108/day) on occasion and rent out a room on Airbnb. Between the two, I bring in about $1,000 - 1,200/month, not enough to pay the health insurance, but it is something. I am a qualified and passionate advocate with a BS, LLB, LLM and teaching credential, but as the founder/director of a building nonprofit, I need something that will allow for flexible hours for income generation, and Airbnb provides that opportunity to both bring in a small amount of occasional income, as well as utilize a room in a big, empty house. The flexibility also allows my to block out time when family is visiting, or when we have overseas friends who are visiting. It is something that I can do to alleviate the guilt I feel from putting so much pressure on my husband during the nonprofit development. However, we also LOVE hosting guests! We lived out of the country for over 10 years and are used to having visitors from both here and abroad. Airbnb allows us to continue hosting a large range of people from around the world. We keep the price relatively low for this area so that we can continue to attract young travelers, couples, and retirees. We are well located as a quick city get-away, as well as a popular hiking destination, so provide a local service by promoting the local town, restaurants, and National Park. Because our financial situation does not allow for us to currently travel, we really enjoy travelers coming to us! Airbnb sharing economy has allowed this economically squeezed and bone-dry family to both have fun, meet interesting people from around the world, and relieve a small bit of financial pressure, but do so in a safe way. All our payments and communication go through Airbnb, with no side jobs. This allows us, as hosts, to feel secure with regard to both guests and payment. It also allows us to set our own operating parameters such as price, min and max length of stay, # of people, etc. Personally, I have also benefited as a user of Airbnb when I attend an annual conference in NYC, for it makes the lodging much more affordable. As a listing with "Superhost" status, we are proud of the work we are doing as representatives of the area and look forward to continuing our service as Airbnb hosts. (On a side note, I am currently also looking into becoming a sharing economy delivery person, as it too allows for flexible hours and some income while developing my nonprofit.) Sharing economy is a vital part of today's economy, particularly for the middle class - who are otherwise squeezed pretty dry, often from all angles of society.