We have AirBnb - so what would FairBnb be like? We need an ethical input into the app and gig economy

We know the stories of how and why AirBnb can be unfair. The company is accused of encouraging the transfer of flats in cities, from residences towards short-term rental opportunities for tourists - causing disruption to the life of these places. As Fast Company puts it:

The Corporate European Observatory, a research and advocacy group that focuses on exposing corporate privilege, issued a report that said there is an undeniable creep of full-time, short-term rentals onto the market, which means the housing can’t be used for someone to actually live in the city:

Between 47% and 87% of the listings concern the rent of entire houses or apartments, indicating the host is not staying at the place at the same time. Some of these would presumably be people who let their apartments while on vacation themselves, or are temporarily absent for other reasons. However, when you look at the number of listings with “high availability”–available for three months or more–it appears there is a strong presence of places used largely or exclusively for the purpose of letting. On this topic, even the cities with limitations on short-term lets rank high, such as Amsterdam (28.1%), Berlin (38.2%), and Paris (34.4%).

The Paris government is limiting AirBnb’s impact, and sueing them too; Amsterdam has capped the amount of days that someone can rent out their flat.

How can a balance be struck - between the flexibility of an app/platform that can utilise spare capacity in a city, and the need to enrich and benefit those communities opening themselves up to the service?

This is the offer of FairBnb, which is an Italian-based cooperative - fundraising here - that wants to answer both sides of the balance. As Fast Company continues:

Fairbnb believes it can be a better partner because it has residents’ interests at heart. The idea is that a co-op could work with locals and municipalities to create a marketplace that benefits people who actually live in high-traffic cities.

Fairbnb would exclude owners of multiple properties who run their homes as illegal hotels through a one-host, one-home policy: For now, each home and host is verified in person, though that may change as Fairbnb gets bigger.

Homeowners who list with Fairbnb will have to be registered and licensed according to local regulations. The co-op will also remit taxes on behalf of hosts. Finally, as members of the co-operative, hosts are owners of the company, which allows them to make decisions about company financials.

As part of its strategy, the co-op will share data with cities–something other home-sharing platforms have only done in a very limited capacity.

“I come from an urban planning background,” says cofounder Sito Veracruz, “so I see transparency and collaboration as very important.” He thinks that communities should have be provided with insight into when tourists are visiting and where.

The data will also enable the platform to more actively accept and reject new home rentals in areas that are already feeling the strain of tourism.

Using the cooperative model, Fairbnb has access to a network of other local cooperatives that can service home rentals. For example, Veracruz says, Fairbnb is looking to partner with a co-op of people with cognitive disabilities who could provide cleaning services for homes on the platform. Fairbnb would also put money toward local projects like community gardens.

The co-op takes a 15% commission on each transaction, and half of that goes to a social project. The other half goes toward funding operations. Veracruz is hoping to create an interface that allows renters to be able to select which social initiative their money goes toward.

Worth supporting - and it’s the kind of conscious use of technology to benefit communities that we have constantly been promoting in this project.

But it’s worth also looking at the context for FairBnb - it’s in the midst of a mutation in capitalism, which is using the capacity for specialisation and customisation to break up the old jobs and institutions.

See for example, this image a blog on Visual Capitalist on the 150 apps that power the “gig economy”. AirBnb is there under “Home Rental” - but overall, this shows a torrent of ways that people can make money in piecemeal ways, servicing what can seen like an endless proliferation of services and needs.


We are more aligned with the FairBnb approach, which would ask how any of these disruptive technologies can “benefit the commonality” (and not just about making ends meet in tough times). But just looking at this, one can begin to see the possibility for a wild proliferation of enterprises and initiatives, meeting needs, that could flourish at a local level.