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Airbnb hires team of former city mayors to serve on advisory board

Punta Jaguar — Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
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Following backlash from local governments regarding its operation in many cities, Airbnb is creating a team of former mayors to help navigate its challenges to find solutions.

On Friday, the company announced an advisory council made up of four former mayors from Houston, Philadelphia, Rome, and Adelaide, Australia, Bloomberg reported, and “hopes to add more mayors, especially from Asia, Latin America, and other regions.”

Since the company has seen significant growth since it formed in 2008, it’s had to deal with a number of legal issues with city governments, usually regarding its effect on housing supply and prices, as well as taxes. Its most recent and perhaps most notable battle was with the New York State Senate last month, when a bill was passed that would outlaw the service from advertising unoccupied apartments for short-term rentals.

Company spokesperson John Meltzer told TechCrunch at the time that he was disappointed, but not surprised that “politicians in Albany cut a last minute deal with the hotel industry that will put 30,000 New Yorkers at greater risk of bankruptcy, eviction or foreclosure.”

At the same time, New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored the bill, said it would prevent people from legally operating house-sharing business, rather than using the service the way that the state prefers.

Hoping to sidestep any further run-ins with city governments, Airbnb seeks to come to a common ground regarding its business practices. Last week, three U.S. senators “attempted to elevate the issues to a national level last week, when they sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the regulator to prove the industry,” Bloomberg reported.

Airbnb spokesperson Christopher Nulty told Bloomberg that the mayors on the advisory board will meet quarterly and will be paid, serving in ambassador and consultancy roles for specific problems. The company also brought in former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as an adviser last week to focus on “strengthening corporate policies around racism and other discrimination on the site.”

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