The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop #01911

Submission Number:
Jennifer Souhrada
New York
Initiative Name:
The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
My story is very simple. I am a married mother of 2 children, and I live in Southampton, NY. I moved here 8 years ago and gave up a full-time teaching job in the hopes of securing full-time employment here. Southampton is a coastal, year-round community for only a small number of people. My husband was born and raised here, and so the opportunity to raise my family here was an appealing one from the standpoint of it is a small community and we would have the support of friends and family. From Spring through Fall, this community is home to tens of thousands more people because of it's proximity to New York City and the fact that it is a beach community. For that reason, there is opportunity for people to rent their homes to vacationers for the Summer. Because of this influx of people, it is challenging to find year-round work in an area that is very service-oriented. Last year, after renovating the existing cottage on our property, I attempted to rent it via the traditional route of listing it with the local real estate agencies. Although there were some showings, it was not getting rented as it is too small a space for the types of renters that want to be here for the whole Summer. When I heard about Airbnb, and the fact that it did not charge me a fee upfront (like other popular rental sites such as VRBO - Vacation Rental By Owner), I decided to give it a try. It has been so popular, not only am I able to rent it out to couples and families during the Summer months, but in the off-season as well. I do work other jobs as a substitute teacher and retail sales associate, but Airbnb has allowed me to earn a supplemental income while offering the opportunity to people to experience this beautiful area that I live for a fraction of the cost. Not only that, but these people also aid in the local economy by shopping at the stores, eating at the restaurants, visiting the museums, and much more. Companies like Airbnb offer a valuable service by protecting my privacy, handling transactions, and connecting people that wouldn't normally have the chance to be connected in a safe, secure environment. This is nothing new in my community. In fact, my neighbor, now in his 50's and a part-time resident himself, said when he was a kid, you could step off the train in Southampton, go to the Chamber of Commerce, and find out what rooms were available to rent for a night or a weekend. His grandmother would frequently rent a room in their home to professionals looking to come to Southampton for a Summer getaway. As demand grew in the succeeding decades, so did the way in which rentals were obtained; shifting to private industry, being regulated by local government, and hindering the opportunity and limiting the availability for people to offer short-term accommodations at reasonable costs. When things are done correctly, the sharing economy is a way for people to be their own small business owner with assistance, safety, and privacy. It is a way for our world to continue to connect globally and economically. My family has met people from South Africa, Australia, France, Great Britain, Brooklyn, CT, and California -- without every leaving our backyard. We see the beauty and wonder of the place we live through new eyes and new experiences. We offer our guests opportunities to drink local beverages, eat local food, shop local stores -- basically support our friends and neighbors. In turn, we as a family are able to afford the place we live thanks to the ability to earn a modest supplemental income. I urge you as lawmakers to consider the benefits of this emerging trend while weighing the risks as well. Thank you for your time, Jennifer Souhrada