Organizing in 100 Cities: The Airbnb Host Movement

On Election Day in San Francisco, the people spoke — and they spoke very clearly — and said “No” to Proposition F, an extreme measure backed by the hotel industry that would have limited home sharing in the city and hurt the ability of everyday people to use the income they generate from home sharing to make ends meet. The results were an incredible victory for our middle class hosts and only possible because the Airbnb community led the fight on the ground in San Francisco.

This election was the first time that there was an actual vote of the people on home sharing.  This election was the first time that the hotel industry was shown to be the source of opposition to home sharing. And this election may have been the first time that the broader public understood what we already knew — Airbnb hosts and guests are not just a community, they represent a people-to-people movement that is getting stronger as the days grow longer.

What the home sharing community did on the ground in San Francisco paid homage to the proverb — vote with your feet.  Many of the the 138,000 hosts and guests in San Francisco took the initiative, organized themselves and led the campaign. The campaign through our community-based volunteers knocked on 285,000 doors, held 105,000 individual conversations with voters, and worked to solicit the endorsement of more than 2000 small, family run businesses.

The No on F campaign earned the support of many leading elected officials and organizations in San Francisco  because our Hosts told them their stories and asked for their support. We saw just how effective the Home Sharers Democratic Club of San Francisco was as a center for organizing the Airbnb community. We experienced first hand the power of people-to-people political networking.  This Medium post, which written by a member of the Airbnb community in San Francisco, was read more than 175,000 times and was one of the smartest takes on why Prop F was so extreme.

What happened in San Francisco is happening over the world. We’re hearing from Airbnb hosts and guests who want to do more to tell their local officials about the benefits of home sharing for their community. Just last week, in New York, we saw more than 6,000 community members in four days provide testimonials to the City Council on how home sharing allows them to make ends meet.  Earlier this year, the California legislature considered legislation regarding home sharing and more than 750,000 members of the community weighed in with elected officials.

Yesterday, we announced that we will support the creation of 100 independent Home Sharing Clubs in 100 Cities around the world in 2016. Many of these organizations have already been formed. In other places, we’ve heard from hosts who want to get involved, but just need a little assistance.

To help out and support the creation of these Home Sharing Clubs we will:

  • Give our community the freedom to do what works for them. We will provide host clubs with support and information, but these organizations will be independent and free to make their own decisions.
  • Give our community access to the finest grassroots organizing training, tools and support. We’ve worked closely with former Obama Administration officials and organizing experts. Now, we’ll make these experts available to the Airbnb community.
  • Provide dedicated Airbnb staff to help our community. Our team in San Francisco will be available to our community and offer advice and support to hosts and guests who are organizing in communities around the world.

In many ways, the organizing of our community into a movement has historical precedent. From guilds to unions, networks of people with shared economic and societal interests have come together to leverage the power of their voices. Today, Airbnb hosts — who earn 97 percent of the price of their listing — and Airbnb guests who use our platform to see the world are forming a powerful people-to-people based political advocacy bloc.

To put the size of the community in perspective, in the U.S. from 2013 to today, we grew from around 950,000 people to over 4 million. Our community continues to grow and more people will be on our platform tomorrow than there are today.  For comparison purposes, the Sierra Club has 2.4 million members, teachers unions represent 2.9 million members and the NRA has 5 million members

We are committed to working with cities as partners — as we have done with cities all over the world.  We want to work with cities to pay our fair share; to make information available to cities so they can make smart decisions; and to get to common-sense solutions that support the middle class.  Over the last several weeks we have seen significant progress — the San Francisco election where the people spoke; partnerships formed from Milan, Italy to Jersey City, New Jersey (steps away from the Statute of Liberty — the very symbol of the American Dream); and the majority party of Tasmania endorsing home sharing.

I’ve been with Airbnb for just over two months and I am in awe of our community because they are a movement and the winds of history are at our back.