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Fairbnb Aims to Be the Responsible Version of Airbnb

While travelers love using Airbnb, it has received bad press over the years from those that say short-stay rentals are not ethically sound, making housing unaffordable in certain areas or displacing people who want to live in the neighborhood.

Fairbnb wants to change that. The start-up company, which has been in the works for three years, is similar to Airbnb in which they have a home-sharing model. However, they've built responsible tourism directly into their operations and policies to make short-term rentals positive aspects to the communities in which they are located.

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“For a long time, the social impact of traveling was rarely taken into consideration—because at first with vacation apartments, people didn’t feel it,” Sito Veracruz, a co-founder of Fairbnb, told CityLab. “We are now reckoning with the damaging impact of tourism on communities, not just because of the industry’s growth, but because of its huge expansion into residential areas.”

Fairbnb’s model is similar to Airbnb, in which you can rent out your home or rent someone else’s home. Like Airbnb, it will place a 15 percent commission on bookings, but what it will do with that commission will be different than Airbnb. Half of the money from that commission will go into the local community where that unit is based.

The money may go to non-commercial meeting spaces, community centers or social housing. Each guest would be able to choose how that part of the commission is used in the neighborhood. Fairbnb will approve and vet each of these projects and perhaps make it open to guests to visit during their stay. The idea is that the neighborhoods would see a monetary investment into their communities rather than profits going to corporations.

“Three years ago when we started, the need for our concept was something we had to explain a lot,” Veracruz said. “With every passing day, as public opinion changes, we have to explain the 'why' of our project less and less.”

“It’s very important to have a [home-sharing] platform that is accountable and responsible, that is about including social sustainability in the economic sustainability equation,” he said

Fairbnb is also committed to following local laws on vacation rentals and requiring their renters to do the same. Where Airbnb is resisting sharing information with local authorities who want to crack down on illegal Airbnb operations, Fairbnb says they’ll share that data.

“We only have legal apartments,” Veracruz said, “and in places where laws are lax, we ourselves have to check the potential impact of a listing. In places with no regulation, we as experts will suggest some rules, but neighbors will also be able to suggest some policies—as has happened during our consultation in Venice, where our policy [for future rentals] is stricter than the municipality requires.”

When many cities are pushing back against Airbnb, Veracruz believes that Fairbnb’s responsible tourism model will make these cities more welcoming of them.

“We don’t ask cities for any special preference or favor, but so far governments are fine with us, and we are already signing agreements with municipalities in Amsterdam, Venice and Barcelona,” he said. “We are complying with the regulations, and are being as transparent as they require. I understand that they can’t or won’t promote us, but, frankly, we are the best guys they have seen in ages.”

Currently, Fairbnb has co-op members in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Lithuania, and are consulting with other cities in Europe like Venice, Bologna and Barcelona. Over 700 people have applied to list their homes on Fairbnb.

It’s still unclear when Fairbnb will launch their service, but with a growing interest in sustainable tourism, its sure to catch the eyes of travelers.

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