By Don MacGillivray

 

Airbedandbreakfast.com, known as Airbnb, is initiating a “Shared City” concept to help the city of Portland and local businesses attract visitors showing off Portland as a great place to visit. They want to work with local leaders to create a more livable community by sharing unused space in local residences with visitors.

It is a win-win for everyone, businesses, local government, residents and also for Airbnb who selected Portland as the place to open their North American operational headquarters with an expected staff of 160 new hires.

It’s partly because of Portland’s reputation as a place where innovation in green technology, technological talent, and a progressive outlook are known (in addition to being in a beautiful natural location). Portland will be Airbnb’s first Shared City.

This initiative is designed to help lawmakers see that the company’s business practices work for the benefit of everyone.

Highlights from a recent article in The Oregonian give impressive local statistics:

In 2013, Airbnb had 1,120 rental host listings in the City of Portland serving 48,000 guests. The average usage was 86 nights per year which generated an income of almost $7,000 a year for each of the hosts. These guests supported 660 jobs in Portland and added $61 million to the local economy.

In discussions with the City, Airbnb has made a number of promises that make this a very attractive proposal.

They will police hosts who give guests a bad experience by ending their use of Airbnd. They will make free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors available to hosts; work with Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Management to find emergency housing for victims of disasters; encourage Portland hosts to make monetary donations to local charities and then match these donations.  Airbnb also is offering to collect 11.5% tax from hosts on behalf of local government, and work with Portland’s tourism office to promote the city to the world.

At a recent three hour hearing of the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission,  opinions split evenly between those in favor of and those against the short-term rental proposal.

Those opposed were mostly private citizens or representatives from Portland neighborhood associations.

Neighborhood groups have expressed many of the same concerns. Most of those speaking in favor were local hosts and have had good experiences and few problems.

Those speaking against the proposal had a myriad of potential specific issues as well as generic challenges like liability insurance coverage, a lack of regulation, potential lack of enforcement, minimal application procedures, the license fee won’t pay for the required health and safety inspections, loss of on-street parking, decline in home values, potential for illegal activities, a lack of transparency, etc.

Those against short-term rentals wanted this to be an independent proposal reviewed on its own and greater public awareness of the implications.

In the end the planning commission passed the proposal on to Portland City Council with only one negative vote.

It is expected to be heard by the council in late May or early June. The Portland city planners assigned to the RICAP #6 proposals are Sandra Wood and Julia Gisler.