The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop #01916

Submission Number:
Virginia Berglund
Initiative Name:
The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
Thank you for your invitation for comments in this regard. I am the proprietor of an Airbnb business in one of the oldest, poorest, and most dense neighborhoods in Pasadena, CA. Since the 2008 crash, we have not been able to make ends meet, even though we are trained professionals and highly respected musicians. There has been no economic recovery for us and many, many artists we know all over the U.S. Our usual paid artistic venues of expression continue to contract. My husband and I have a young child and I care for aging parents nearing 90. We would not be able to live on this property and make the rent if we didn't have our income amended by Airbnb. Since starting with Airbnb only last Nov. 2014, Airbnb has provided a way for us to begin to pay off our debts incurred during these past exceedingly lean years. Airbnb's booking tools allow us to strictly vet all guests as per our needs, so we're able to host folks that we know will be a good "fit" for our space. The vetting process helps our neighbors feel more secure. As a result, we have enthusiastic neighbors that are eager to meet and even help with our guests! Noise or boisterousness after hours is from long term renters in the neighborhood, not Airbnb guests. We have only a few foreign travelers, and our property is described publicly as not a place for partying, but a garden of peace and quiet. We host guests of a different ilk than one would find at a hotel. Hotels are often in sections of town far removed from groceries, sundries, items of everyday living and services. Our Airbnb guests are at a different economic level than those who would be able to patronize hotels. Our Airbnb guests are of all ages, but similarly, are all poor, and would not, or could not be able to come to this area, were it not for our prices, which more adequately reflect their (and our) economy. They would not be able to visit their families as much, if they had to stay in places that cost more. With Airbnb, they are able to deepen their familial ties, work short term, apply for jobs and interview, study for and take professional exams, do research, etc. Our guests specifically appreciate the unique local businesses that they can walk to. They contribute heavily to our local four to six blocks of businesses within what has, over the years, been alternately called Pasadena's "barrio" and "ghetto". I've lived here all of my life, and I finally see some changes, and it's not due to any city spending. Airbnb'er's have added to the regeneration of our neighborhood and to the generally more upbeat character in this still poverty-level to blue-collar area. For your regulatory considerations and comparisons, Airbnb's review process for hosts and guests is elegant and transparent. This is very important when considering similar issues with hotel/motel environments. Every Airbnb guest and host review each other with written description and standard questions. Best practices and problems are recorded and known immediately and publicly. Best of all, the neighborhood, home owners, long term renters, short term tenants and business folks, get to know each other, enjoy each other's company and diverse styles, and appreciate the benefits of "their part of town" and the nicer life this "shared economy" offers. Thank you for your study and consideration!