Policy Studies Competition Policy

Roomscore 2016: Short-term-rental regulation in U.S. cities

See the report’s full methodology and results at Roomscore.org.

In recent years, discussion of the so-called “sharing economy” has dominated local politics in many cities across the country, and drawn no shortage of hand-wringing from policymakers about how to regulate it. While socalled “ridesharing” services like Uber and Lyft have generated headlines for their disruption of taxi and limo markets, emerging demand for “roomsharing” is disrupting existing hotel and bed-and-breakfast markets with a similar recipe of innovation: technological advancement that empowers individuals to engage in new forms of commerce that expand and improve service for consumers.

Short-term-rental (STR) services allow individuals to rent a home, apartment or even just a single bedroom for shortduration stays, usually just a few days at a time, using Webbased platforms that advertise to travelers. The services help provide lower-cost lodging to visitors, while allowing property owners to earn returns on underused assets. As the STR market has grown, it also has roused the interest of regulators and generated dozens of legislative battles over proposals to curtail that growth.

For the past two years, the R Street Institute has examined the regulatory climate for transportation services in 50 of America’s largest cities. Through our Ridescore project, we have assessed the burden of state and local rules governing transportation network companies (TNCs), taxis and limos, and assigned both individual and composite scores and letter grades based on cities’ openness to innovation and new business models in the for-hire transportation market.

With this report, we set out to perform a similar function for short-term-rental regulation. Roomscore looks at 59 cities to assess their openness to commerce conducted through services like Airbnb; HomeAway (and its related brand, Vacation Rentals by Owner or VRBO); FlipKey (a brand of TripAdvisor); and even Craigslist. We hope the results provide a comprehensive analysis of the evolving policy climate for short-term rentals, illuminating trends and highlighting successes and failures that could guide cities and states toward regulatory frameworks that foster innovation and economic growth.

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