WASHINGTON, D.C. – American Family Voices (AFV), a network of progressive organizations including civil rights, environmental, women’s rights and consumer advocacy groups, has launched an ad campaign calling out Airbnb and its CEO, Brian Chesky, for making “hollow and broken” promises in addressing Airbnb “party houses” and safety issues after more than 40 people have been shot at Airbnb rentals over the last six months across the country with 20 of the victims being killed.
Mike Lux, president of American Family Voices, who launched an “AirbnbWATCH” initiative years ago as the influx of short-term rentals started having a negative impact on housing and neighborhood safety, says the new safety guidelines announced last week by Airbnb are too little, too late and merely a stunt to limit additional PR damage.
“Airbnb only responded after the Halloween incident garnered national attention and there have been additional shootings and fatalities at Airbnb rentals,” stated Lux. “Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky continues to make hollow promises that will do nothing to improve the safety for guests staying at Airbnbs or neighbors living next to them.”
Lux points out that just last week 55 shots were fired at a Portland, Oregon Airbnb rental and one woman was left hospitalized after suffering injuries – only two days after Airbnb announced its new safety initiative. With a mounting wave of news stories about significant safety and security incidents month after month regarding Airbnb “party houses” ending violence in once peaceful neighborhoods, Lux said it’s time for government officials to intervene.
“It’s clear that Airbnb has a major trust problem and has proven incapable of addressing these ‘party houses’ and adequately addressing the safety concerns in neighborhoods where they operate,” stated Lux. “Our government leaders at all levels need to step in. Otherwise, how many shootings or fatalities have to occur until government leaders say enough is enough”
The ad features clips from a recent media interview with New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin where Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky said the company will “make sure that every single property is reviewed with the intention that 100 percent of things on Airbnb are verified” and that Airbnb was “going to have a 24/7 neighbor hotline where any neighbor in any town in any part of the world 24/7 can call us.”
However, impacted neighborhood residents, academic experts and even Airbnb hosts have questioned Airbnb’s ability to ban party houses and verify all their seven million listings. As the ad showcases, even Fox Business Network commentators, Stuart Varney and Susan Li, have questioned Airbnb’s ability to verify all their listings worldwide and Cheri Young, an assistant professor at the University of Denver pointed out that “Airbnb doesn’t have a security force across the globe.”
Lux said the only way to adequately protect neighborhoods is for local governments to limit short-term rentals, like Airbnb, to owner-occupied or primary residence rentals only. A “one host, one home” limitation Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky has publicly endorsed in the past has been aggressively opposed by Airbnb in regulatory battles against city governments throughout the U.S. Another promise that Lux says Airbnb has broken.
“Cities across the country, including Boston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, New Orleans, Baltimore and Miami Beach, have passed new ordinances to regulate illegal commercial short-term rentals to reduce negative impacts to neighborhoods, including safety concerns,” stated Lux. “However, Airbnb has fought efforts by local leaders to pass common sense regulations and have even sued city governments to avoid sharing data on their rentals with local law enforcement agencies trying to protect neighborhoods.”
Lux said it is time for city leaders across the country to step in to follow the lead of numerous cities that have recently enacted new or stronger short-term rental regulations. He also called on Congress to pass the Protecting Local Authority and Neighborhoods Act (PLAN) H.R. 4232 to stop Airbnb and HomeAway from exploiting a provision of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) to avoid having to comply with locals laws requiring the platforms to remove illegal rentals from their web site – even though the platforms continue to profit off them.