Businesses like Airbnb are part of something called the sharing economy, ridding consumers of the needed to buy, buy, buy and teaching us to share instead. As you can imagine, this new model disrupts our current system as well as all of the legalities surrounding it. And now a vigilante group of residents in Stuyvesant Town, New York is fighting back.
According to the New York Times, renters and homeowners have been searching Airbnb to find neighbors that are renting out their spaces to vacationers using the site. The peer-to-peer rental site isn’t fully to blame: this particular area of New York has been plagued by social clashes between long-time and newer residents, but it’s being highlighted by the increased freedom Airbnb has given a younger generation to do what they please with the apartments they rent.
Those taking issue with what sites like Airbnb, Roomorama, and Homeaway are doing are upset about simple things like noise, mess, and bed bugs, but also about safety. Residents are upset about strangers who say they’re staying the weekend and need into the building. While platforms that facilitate these interactions warn against putting your neighbors into this position, there’s hardly a guarantee it can be avoided.
Unfortunately there’s no simple answer in site just yet. Collaborative consumption is changing our economic landscape quickly, and the powers that be are the ones that need to adjust along with us. Uber recently had to fight to keep its business up and running in Washington D.C. after rules regarding taxis and town cars attempted to put it out of business. Of course, cutting out all legislative middle men clearly won’t work, so new regulatory bodies will need to help replace some of the safety nets that p2p sharing is cutting.
At the same time, Airbnb needs to tread carefully. Inciting war with local communities could become a major thorn in its side. Last time I took a look at this issue, I asked Airbnb how it approached the issue of illegal subletting. Plenty of rooms for rent on the site are made available by renters who are not allowed to make money giving up their rooms for the weekend, whether they’re ignoring that clause of their lease or unaware of it. Of course this isn’t Airbnb’s fault or problem and if someone gets in trouble for it, Airbnb is entirely off the hook. It seems that this situation will be given the same treatment: hoards of angry neighbors are a casualty of this market, and it’s irresponsible users of the site causing them, not the site itself. But if the problem becomes big enough, then a response will be warranted.
In the meantime, legislators and business bureaus are starting to work with companies like Airbnb to find common ground in establishing this economic model — but that doesn’t stop the residents of Stuyvesant Town from feeling growing pains.