Airbnb is spending a record amount of money lobbying the federal government this year. The short-term rental marketplace has spent $820,000 in the first nine months of 2023, more than the company spent during the same period any prior year. The company is outpacing its spending in 2022, when it spent a record $1 million lobbying the federal government over the course of the year.
A company spokesperson with the company told OpenSecrets they don’t anticipate surpassing last year’s federal lobbying total in 2023.
Short-term rental services like Airbnb and VRBO have come under increased scrutiny for their impact on housing affordability and on traditional hospitality industries, like hotels. These criticisms have led to attempts to ban or regulate the industry, particularly at the municipal level.
Airbnb’s 2023 federal lobbying reports only list one bill by name, the Hotel Fees Transparency Act of 2023. Introduced by Sen. Amy Klobochar (D-Minn.), it would require prices shown on short-term rental listings to include all required fees.
A version of the bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Kim Young (R-Calif.) earlier this month, which includes an additional section barring state and local governments from enforcing their own laws about transparent pricing, establishing a “national standard.”
Airbnb publicly announced its support for the House bill last week, praising its creation of an industry-wide standard for price display. In its statement, the company mentioned that Airbnb’s Chief Financial Officer Dave Stephenson met with President Joe Biden at the White House to “highlight private sector companies that have launched price display improvements for consumers.”
The rest of Airbnb’s lobbying disclosures only mention general topics, like “housing policy,” “content moderation,” and “travel and tourism.”
Airbnb spent a record $1 million on federal lobbying last year and reported lobbying on seven distinct bills, including the Cut Red Tape For Online Sales Act, which would increase the threshold for when individuals need to report payments received for goods or services to the IRS using Form 1099-K. Under the legislation, the reporting threshold would increase from $600 to $5,000.
The bill was first introduced in March 2022 but expired at the start of 2023. It was reintroduced in the House last May by its original sponsor, Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.). Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who introduced the original bill in the Senate, has not reintroduced it.
Airbnb did not report lobbying on the Cut Red Tape For Online Sales Act in 2023, but did report lobbying on “general discussions related to IRS Form 1099-K reporting.”
Similarly, Airbnb reported lobbying on the Travel and Tourism Act and the American Data Privacy and Protection Act in 2022. Both bills expired before any significant action, but Airbnb continued lobbying on “general discussions related to travel” and “federal data privacy” in 2023.
Airbnb has spent at least $651,000 lobbying in nine different states tracked by OpenSecrets this year, with spending topping $100,000 in three states: Florida, California and Texas. Multiple states targeted by Airbnb’s lobbying have considered regulations on short-term rentals this year, including additional taxes, occupancy guidelines, and rules on whether the owner of a rental property lives on the property for most of the year.
The company spent $225,000 lobbying in Florida, which was considering a bill that would regulate vacation rentals and change how local governments could regulate them.
The bill ultimately failed when Florida’s legislative chambers couldn’t agree on an amendment that would limit the ability of local governments to apply regulations.
Airbnb spent another $185,000 lobbying in California, where the company is headquartered and state lawmakers were also considering a bill on short-term rentals earlier this year. Senate Bill 584 would have imposed a 15% tax on rentals lasting less than 30 days. The money would go toward “affordable and middle-income housing units that will be owned and managed by a public entity, or mission-driven nonprofit.”
The bill narrowly passed the California state Senate, but its first reading in the Assembly was canceled by the bill’s author, state Sen. Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara). She intends to revive the measure next year, according to California nonprofit newsroom CalMatters.
Many cities in the state have had regulations and fees levied against short-term rentals for years, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, while San Diego saw new laws take effect in 2023.
New York City implemented what the company calls a “de facto ban” on short-term rentals earlier this year. Airbnb spent $66,000 on lobbying in New York in 2023.
Outside of the U.S., Airbnb is facing additional regulation. Policymakers in the European Union agreed to multiple measures regulating short-term rentals last month, which include host registration, verification of property details and data sharing with local authorities. In a sponsored column for Politico, Airbnb praised the EU for “giving their final approvals to the world’s first template on how to regulate our platform and industry.”
Canadian officials are also considering regulations on short-term rentals, prompting Airbnb to grow its lobbying efforts in the country. In the meantime, provinces have been implementing their own regulations. Earlier this year, Quebec reworked its stringent regulations on short-term rentals, putting the onus on Airbnb to keep unregistered, illegal listings off of its marketplace.
Dec. 15, 2023: This article was updated to clarify that Airbnb announced support for the House version of the House Hotel Fees Transparency Act of 2023.
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