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In-Depth Interview: Author Steven Hill and Reporter Carolyn Said Reveal the Info Airbnb Doesn’t Want You to Know

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In the second of our 2-part series, author Steven Hill is joined by SF Chronicle reporter Carolyn Said, and they share info on short-term rentals that Airbnb tries to keep secret.Hill’s new book is Raw Deal: How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing American Workers.  In this episode, we also talk with Carolyn Said, a veteran reporter who has been covering Airbnb and other startups in the so-called “sharing economy” for several years now.

Airbnb presents itself as the app that enables people to rent a room or their entire house to strangers, and paints a picture of happy homeowners making extra cash with no complications.  Hill and Said note that available data show that many Airbnb rentals are owned by the same people or firms, and are operated as hotels.  They note that Airbnb often skirts or flouts local laws governing short-term rentals, and that many Airbnb landlords to not report or pay taxes like their traditional competitors.

Said details the recent $8 million campaign by Airbnb that defeated a voter initiative with tighter restrictions on short-term rentals.  We also discuss the impact in communities with limited rental vacancies, and how some villages on the California coast are becoming “Airbnb ghost towns” where renters have been squeezed out and there are few full-time residents.

In his book, Hill describes Airbnb as a “ticking time bomb of contradictions, promoting illegal rentals and tax avoidance that at some point may blow up”.