Hi all FairBnB, the new sustainable home sharing platform
I was introduced to one of the first home sharing platforms in 2006. The hosts offered their sofas to travelers for free (yes, you heard that right), trading unused space and genuine hospitality for new friendships and cultural exchanges. I welcomed travelers to my home in Los Angeles and took them on a tour of the architecture and history of downtown LA. I have surfed on sofas in Poland, Morocco, Russia and France. My friends couldn’t believe that I ceded my living room to strangers, offered tours, and stayed in foreign cities – all for free. No one had heard of the sharing economy.
By 2014, short-term vacation rentals had encroached on both residential rental real estate and the hospitality industry by bypassing local housing laws, contributing to gentrification and overtourism. In places like San Francisco and Berlin, citizens blamed rising rents, housing shortages and the touristification of city centers on these ‘home sharing’ platforms, which had shifted from the utopian sharing economy to another form of mass tourism.
Emanuele dal Carlo, originally from Venice, began his research in 2015 to find out how short-term rentals affected his city. What he found shocked him: 30% of the hosts were not registered with the public authority.
“We started to think about the impact this had on the local economy, the local residents,” he said. “How much of this money went to tax havens, or was extracted by foreigners who had just bought their property as an investment?”
Similar concerns were raised across Europe, leading to a wave of urban activism. In Berlin, data journalists examined Airbnb’s software to determine how many people had rented more than five properties in the city, posting their findings on Airbnb vs Berlin. Amsterdam levied a tourist tax on Airbnb hosts and put in place rules on the number of nights per year that can be rented in residences. Barcelona fined Airbnb and HomeAway for advertising unauthorized vacation rentals.
Meanwhile, Mr. dal Carlo was pondering a bridge between the utopia of sharing and the absorption of tourism revenue in big tech companies: creating a colocation platform that could control hosts, ensuring they were true local residents in accordance with municipal housing and tenancy policies. , and that they only had one short-term market listing, across all platforms. He wanted to see tourism contribute to local economies and connect tourists with locals, as the original dream of sharing homes had promised.
“A true sharing economy gives people the power to make decisions and to reinvest,” he told me on Zoom, joined by three other co-founders in Bologna.
“We wanted to create an inherently fair system, by design, instead of using the sharing economy narrative just to become a middleman who extracts value from a community.”
Soon Mr. dal Carlo discovered that he was not the only one thinking about this. In Amsterdam, Jonathan Reyes was a citizen activist denouncing gentrification and the explosion of the rental market. Not only was he part of the launch of a new colocation network, but their group had also decided to reinvest the profits in social projects in low-income communities, using tourism money to solve urban problems. When The Guardian published an article on this new platform, Fairbnb Coop, Mr. dal Carlo immediately contacted Mr. Reyes. Counterparts in Valencia, Bologna and Barcelona followed.
“What I can tell you, reading hundreds of emails, is that there is a need for this. For a new way of approaching tourism’s neglect of sustainability. The hosts want an alternative, ”said Dal Carlo.
It turns out that city dwellers across Europe want alternatives. The Fairbnb team set up a website and started recruiting local ambassadors. In each city, a local ambassador who understands the platform’s sustainability model can tailor it to their community’s needs. Ultimately, Ambassadors would be responsible for meeting with each host and verifying their legal and platform compliance before the list can go live.
“We don’t just create software,” added Dal Carlo. “We offer an experience: for the tourist, for the host and for the community. We want to create jobs in the city and put money back on the ground.
Fairbnb.coop launched its beta site in November 2019, and bookings have started to pour in. Then came the story we all know so well: Covid. Reservations have dried up. But the founders and ambassadors did not lose heart: they took the time to continue to grow the community, confident in the return of the tourist market.
“At that time, we were able to connect people who started to think about how a true circular economy could be activated. It’s thinking globally, but with a local presence, ”added Dominico di Siena, another co-founder.
I spoke to them from their first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic, and their enthusiasm was infectious. Fairbnb.coop was relaunched in June 2021 in nine cities, with nearly 20 more coming soon. Some hosts have already taken reservations. Amsterdam-based co-founder Mr Reyes says the next step is to expand profit sharing even more universally.
“We want the users to also own the program, like a workers’ cooperative that includes all local partners. We are trying to understand how to include the hosts in the cooperative structure.
In September, the co-founders, ambassadors, hosts and travelers will come together for the first Fairbnb mass event in Italy – and they even invited me to participate. Now I’m just looking for a host.