Few topics are more hotly debated than the sharing economy and its impact on local communities. Tech enthusiasts believe that this new type of economic activity can help solve some of the world’s worst crises, from ending poverty to tackling climate change.
In many parts of Europe the advent of sharing economy platforms has rejuvenated the local economy. A point in case is Athens. Hard hit by the economic crisis, the Greek capital saw a staggering drop in the number of tourists staying in the city for longer than one day, before heading to the Greek islands. The picture has changed over the last few years, partly because Athenians have embraced the collaborative economy by renting out en masse their flats, boats and cars. This innovative economic activity is a boon for a country where home ownership is particularly high, offering a valuable source of income to local hosts. It has also contributed to a rise in foreign investment in real estate, as property developers from countries as diverse as China, Turkey and the US invest in renovating flats or even new properties in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The picture is similar in other European cities such as Lisbon, Amsterdam and Barcelona, with the number of tourists using at least one sharing economy platform booming over the last few years.
Teething problems for sharing economy platforms and how to solve them
However, sharing is not always caring. In many of these cities, local residents have a difficulty finding a flat available for long-term lease, as an increasing number of properties are reserved for tourists. If collaborative consumption has created new forms of economic activity, the idiosyncratic gentrification it has also brought along is not always welcome. In the transport industry for example, the launch of car pooling and sharing platforms in several European cities have been an anathema for local taxi drivers. In Barcelona, several ride-hailing platforms suspended their operations this year there after the local authorities adopted new rules, while local governments in Amsterdam and Paris are also cracking down on unregulated peer-to-peer rentals.
Fairbnb.coop, a new type of p2p platform
In a response to the backlash against some of the sharing economy’s darkest aspects, new sharing platforms have emerged that put emphasis on a more ethical and equitable business model. A point in case is Fairbnb.coop, a home-sharing platform that puts emphasis on supporting local communities rather than profit-making. Three aspects differentiate this innovative venture, launched in early 2019, from conventional collaborative economy platforms:
- Transparency and legitimacy. Hosts can only only have one secondary house on the short term rental market, while the platform ensures that hosts are permitted to rent out their flats and also pay taxes.
- Strong focus on local communities. Fifty percent of earned commission will be used to support non-commercial community projects, such as non-profit food cooperatives, community gardens and affordable housing for the locals. In an interview with The Next Web, co-founder Sito Veracruz said: ‘We aim to create local nodes which will have some authority on the platform to set the criteria for rentals, limits, and which projects to fund. But the extra step — which we’ve already started on here in Amsterdam — is to gather interested locals into an organization or a cooperative to provide services to guests and hosts.
- A co-op spirit. The platform has been set up by a workers’ co-operative which in the future will incorporate hosts.
The Bologna-based platform will launch in June pilot programmes in five European cities (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bologna, Valencia and Venice) and has just launched a crowdfunding round to fund further expansion:
- On Indiegogo.com to raise funds that will allow the platform to launch as soon as possible in many other locations worldwide.
- On Goteo.com to support the activity of their budding Local Nodes in Spain.
For an established sharing economy platform specialising in boat hire such as Click&Boat, Fairbnb.coop’s vision for a more equitable sharing economy makes sense. As the leading p2p boat rental platform, Click&Boat puts the user at the forefront of its operations. By supporting local communities of boat owners in various Europeans countries that previously relied on word-of-mouth, the company supports a global community of over 300,000 sailing enthusiasts. This is after all the original spirit of the sharing economy: making products and services hitherto deemed too pricey for the masses accessible to everyone.