Airbnb (Nasdaq: ABNB) may be playing coy about trying to influence the government. In 2019, the company hired Nathan Rotman, former chief of staff of Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, and national director for the federal NDP to become its regional lead for the Northeast US and Canada.
As Better Dwelling co-founder Stephen Punwasi points out, this may indicate two things: 1) Airbnb is making an “aggressive attempt to capture government,” and 2) “they’re fully aware of the damage they’re causing, they’re trying to manipulate the narrative.”
Rotman’s connection to at least his province’s government has not been severed since he started to work for Airbnb either. This year, he took a leave of absence at Airbnb to lead Notley’s campaign. (And Notley’s campaign was reportedly full of lobbyists like Rotman.)
Airbnb has been pushing back against new legislation that was introduced in British Columbia that implements stricter measures, significantly increasing fines for rule-breaking hosts and introducing new requirements for operators with the goal of bringing more units into the long-term housing market.
The company wrote emails to Airbnb hosts for ways they can contact their respective MLAs to “ask them to protect your right to host.” Stoking fear and panic, they warned that the legislation would require platforms like Airbnb to “share your personal information and data with the province,” and would “[introduce] a provincial registration system on top of any existing municipal licensing.”
What the email fails to point out is a considerable portion of the 28,000 short-term rentals in BC is managed by for-profit operators rather than individuals renting out their primary residences or vacation properties. Moreover, up to half of these rentals are operating in violation of existing municipal bylaws, according to the province.
Airbnb is likely to find more ways to try to fight back. Especially since Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, inspired by the BC legislation, recently said that the federal government would “actively examine what options and tools exist at the federal level, to ensure more short-term rentals are made available as long-term rentals, as permanent homes, for Canadians to live in.”
Rotman has been hard at work for the corporation, recently claiming “everyone agrees” that the over regulation of short term rentals won’t make a dent in the housing market.
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