Popular services like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb are just part of a new multi-billion dollar sharing industry that has consumers clamoring for new deals and conveniences, and local governments wondering how to regulate it all.
Mom always told you it’s nice to share. She probably never imagined, though, that one day you’d be sharing your spare family room with strangers from Illinois, your minivan with a group of British tourists—or your office space with a budding tech entrepreneur. Today what is known as the “sharing economy” has turned access to one’s personal space, talents and possessions into big business. In many cases, internet-based sharing apps and websites have been a win for towns and cities looking for ways to boost commerce with technology. Local governments, however, are still scratching their heads over how they can best ensure that sharing companies and apps don’t have an unfair advantage over more traditional businesses and services.
Less is more
The sharing economy is hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, for thousands of years, people have shared time, talents and possessions to meet personal and community needs. Today the internet and the use of big data have dramatically changed the dynamics of the sharing industry, making it easier than ever to connect those providing goods and services with those who need them.
Another big driver of the sharing economy seems to come from a desire to own less. Bernard Marr, a contributing writer for Forbes1 magazine points out that as millennials enter adulthood and the middle class, the trend seems to be for them to own “less stuff.” The digital and sharing economies have made this much easier.
Where Baby Boomers and Gen Xers might have had shelves and shelves dedicated to books, magazines and music in their homes, today we can fit the same amount of media and more onto the pocket-sized computers we anachronistically still call phones. Whereas being a “two-car family” (or even three or four cars) was once a mark of status, today many millennials see more status in being a one-car or even zero-car family and making use of services like Uber, Lyft, CarGo, and others to use cars only when they need one.
The Sharing Economy touches nearly every aspect of our daily lives2
While rental and ride-sharing are some of the most-used and talked about segments of the sharing economy, new platforms have come onto the scene, opening up new opportunities for personal and B2B transactions. They include:
- Co-working Platforms: Companies that provide shared open work spaces for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and work-from-home employees in major metropolitan areas.
- Peer-to-Peer Lending Platforms: Companies that allow for individuals to lend money to other individuals at rates cheaper than those offered through traditional credit lending entities.
- Fashion Platforms: Sites that allow for individuals to sell or rent their clothes.
- Freelancing Platforms: Sites that offer to match freelance workers across a wide spectrum ranging from traditional freelance work to services traditionally reserved to handymen.
For more examples of popular sharing websites and Apps, click here. 3
New challenges for local governments
Criticism of the sharing economy often involves regulatory uncertainty. Businesses offering rental services are often regulated by federal, state or local authorities; unlicensed individuals offering rental services may not be following these regulations or paying the associated costs, giving them an “unfair” advantage that enables them to charge lower prices. It could also cut into tax revenue as taxis and hotels lose business to services like Uber and Airbnb.
Read more about the ways the sharing economy is impacting local governments here.4
Learn how the sharing industry is regulated in your area
Our eCode360 clients can also search our online library of more than 2,200 Codes for more examples of sharing regulations—or any legislative issue that comes up. Just type key words, such as “sharing services”, or “Uber” or “Airbnb” and a list of the matching content will come up. Users can even filter results by the municipalities’ population, geography, government type, and class. Chances are, if a topic has come up in your municipality, your neighbors have experienced issues, too.
- The Sharing Economy – What It Is, Examples, And How Big Data, Platforms and Algorithms Fuel It, Forbes.com, October 21, 2016
- The Sharing Economy, Investopedia.com, Reviewed by Will Kenton, march 21, 2019
-  100+ Sharing Economy Apps and Websites You Don’t Want to Miss, MoneyMad.com, February 13, 2019
- 4 Ways the Sharing Economy is Impacting Local Governments (And What You Can Do About It); Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc.