The sharing economy has taken the world by storm—ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber have revolutionized transportation, food trucks make it possible to grab gourmet food on the go, and room sharing platforms, like Airbnb and HomeAway, give travelers affordable traveling options.
Room sharing services allow people to rent out spare rooms, or even their entire property, providing guests with a place to stay and renters with an extra buck. It’s all done online and takes just a few clicks of the mouse. It is a win-win for both consumers and producers of the room-sharing economy.
The sharing economy is transforming our world and bringing opportunity to people from all walks of life, yet it is continually under attack. Most recently, room sharing has been under the spotlight. Room sharing—exemplified by AirBnB, FlipKey, HomeAway and other companies -provides individuals the ability to supplement their income, and gives travelers the option for a more authentic and affordable experience while traveling.
Unfortunately, there are no current statewide standards for room sharing services in Virginia, and that has caused localities across the state to independently handle room sharing. Unfortunately, the outdated restrictions in many localities and municipalities block these services from thriving—and Richmond serves as a prime example.
Currently, Richmond’s laws allow short-term lodging only at hotels because of an outdated zoning ordinance that prohibits private rentals shorter than a month, effectively outlawing AirBnB and similar services. Some City Council members have expressed interest in addressing the outdated ordinance, but nothing has been done to date. The restrictive policies in Richmond have cost hosts and travelers alike. Seven people have already received citations from Richmond for violating the ordinance.
The success of room sharing, not only in the U.S. but around the world, speaks for itself. Sharing economy services, like room sharing, offer win-win solutions for everyone involved.
Additionally, AirBnB and similar services allow renters to view feedback about their potential guests and screen out those who could cause trouble. Your typical hotel cannot necessarily say the same thing.
Richmond is just one example of a city where the intense, unnecessary scrutiny that room sharing has occurred over the past year. Charlottesville recently passed new regulations on room sharing services which require residents to obtain a permit.
Instead of making it harder for hosts and travelers to use these services, localities should be welcoming the business and entrepreneurial spirit. Ultimately, the Virginia legislature should clarify policy around room sharing for the entire state.
In the meantime, we at Generation Opportunity are advocating for localities, like Richmond, to lift regulations and pass ordinances that allow these services. Homeowners across Virginia should be allowed to freely rent out their homes without excessive government regulation or interference from hotel lobbyists and labor unions who are gaming the system to their advantage.
Generation Opportunity has already collected hundreds of petitions urging the Richmond City Council to pass an ordinance amending zoning laws to allow homeowners to rent out their homes for as long or short as they desire. The work to save room sharing in Virginia has only just begun, and more support is needed.
You can get involved by going to https://generationopportunity.org/petitions/help-save-room-sharing-in-richmond-virginia/ or visiting the Virginia Team on Twitter at @GenOppVA.