November 5, 2015 / 12:07 AM / 4 years ago

Airbnb to create 100 clubs to advocate for home-sharing

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Airbnb said on Wednesday it plans to form 100 home-sharing clubs in cities across the United States during 2016, seeking to organize advocates of home-and room-sharing companies to head off regulatory crackdowns.

Supporters of Airbnb stand during a rally before a hearing called "Short Term Rentals: Stimulating the Economy or Destabilizing Neighborhoods?" at City Hall in New York January 20, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Files

These clubs are an extension of the $8.4 million ground campaign Airbnb organized ahead of Tuesday’s election in San Francisco, which included an initiative to restrict short-term rentals.

The company won that battle, with Proposition F, a measure to limit short-term rentals to 75 nights a year, defeated 55 percent to 45 percent.

“We’re going to use the momentum of what took place here to do what we did in San Francisco around the world,” Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s global policy chief who led the campaign, said during a news conference.

The home-sharing clubs will be organized and supported by Airbnb and run by hosts and guests who use the website.

Lehane declined to say how much the community home-sharing advocacy clubs would cost, but said, “we’ll spend what it takes to succeed.”

In San Francisco, Airbnb outspent Prop. F supporters by more than 30 times, organizing 2,000 volunteers and knocking on about 285,000 doors.

The company wants to replicate that ground campaign in anticipation of more regulatory battles.

“It’s not a question of if but more a question of when those conversations will take place,” Lehane said.

Fending off restrictions is particularly important in light of steeper competition from Expedia Inc, which on Wednesday said it would buy vacation rental site HomeAway Inc for about $3.9 billion in cash and stock.

The move is expected to extend HomeAway’s reach and help Expedia compete for customers that use Airbnb.

While Airbnb scored a victory on Prop. F, the election also brought a new challenge. Former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, an Airbnb critic, was voted back into office.

And cities including New York and Los Angles will continue mulling tough restrictions on Airbnb, according to city council members and affordable housing advocates in those cities.

New York’s city council is preparing to vote on a proposal that would levy steeper fines against Airbnb violators. New York already has among the toughest laws for short-term rentals.

“What happened in San Francisco will have zero impact in New York City,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for ShareBetter, the coalition advocating for a crackdown on illegal Airbnb rentals. “We don’t need a Prop F. What we need is Airbnb to follow the law.”

Reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco; additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in Washington.; Editing by Frances Kerry and Christian Plumb

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