(This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News on September 29, 2017)
The Los Angeles technology industry has become an integral part of the engine that drives the economy of our city. The tech sector employs an estimated 368,000 people in Greater Los Angeles and generates $108.3 billion in economic activity. As our regional economy continues to evolve, innovation will continue to play an important role in L.A.’s ability to attract top employers and grow.
L.A. has the talent and resources to become a major hub of technology and innovation, and it also has the opportunity to adopt policies that allow all Angelenos to benefit from the innovation spurred by the tech sector.
To create a 21st century economy that works for everyone, city leaders must support the sharing economy, which harnesses cutting-edge technology in a way that allows Angelenos to benefit.
We are already seeing the impact that the sharing economy can have on L.A. residents. In a city where the cost of living is skyrocketing, short-term rentals provide the opportunity for thousands of people to make ends meet, while injecting millions of dollars in economic activity into communities that lie off the beaten path from traditional tourist districts.
For some, this is the difference between keeping their homes or losing them entirely.
As city leaders work to ensure the sharing economy is growing and benefiting all residents, we should be careful not to allow regulations to stifle innovation and limit economic opportunity for middle-class families.
Fostering innovation in the peer-to-peer economy is important to the economic future of the L.A. region. By serving as a source of supplemental income, short-term rentals have supported L.A.’s middle class families, helping them cover important payments and keep their homes. This has played out across the country, as 54 percent of HomeAway short-term rental owners generate enough income to cover 75 percent of their mortgage.
Short-term rentals play a vital role in the local travel and tourism economies. An economic impact study by the Short Term Rental Alliance of California found vacation rental activity generated $1.4 billion in economic activity for L.A., supporting more than 12,300 local jobs. Last year, more than 1 million visitors stayed at Airbnb listings and booked more than 94,000 nights in HomeAway properties across the city.
These visitors support small and emerging businesses and bring much-needed economic activity to neighborhoods that have not traditionally benefitted from the city’s tourism industry.
Visitors to short-term rentals stay longer and spend more in diverse neighborhoods throughout the city. Forty-two percent of guest spending occurs in the neighborhoods where they stayed, benefitting communities like South Los Angeles that typically do not see as much tourism activity.
It’s not just the homeowners, hosts and travelers who benefit from short-term rentals. Since a tax agreement with the city of Los Angeles was enacted one year ago, Airbnb has remitted nearly $35 million in taxes on behalf of hosts and guests. This additional revenue has given lawmakers the flexibility to fund programs that benefit Angelenos.
Further, public support recognizes the value these rentals bring to communities. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce poll found 72 percent of Americans believe whole-home vacation rentals are an important accommodation option worth protecting. Officials should take this sentiment into consideration as they work to develop policies.
Working together, we can find a way to allow innovation to flourish and expand economic opportunity to more people and more communities. We should promote rules that democratize economic prosperity, foster innovation and empower individuals.
The tech sector must take responsibility for the growing role we will play in the future of Los Angeles. We will continue to work with elected officials and community leaders to build bridges between technology and public policy to find workable solutions that will better serve Los Angeles.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association. Michael Beckerman is president and CEO of the Internet Association. Linda Moore is president and CEO of TechNet. Steve Shur is president and CEO of the Travel Technology Association.