Elizabeth Warren wants the government to study whether Airbnb puts people 'at risk'

Senator Elizabeth Warren wants regulators to look into Airbnb’s business practices.

The Massachusetts senator, joined by Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday urging it to examine websites for short-term housing rentals, like Airbnb.

The letter details the senators’ concern that while companies like Airbnb and HomeAway “spark innovation,” there’s reason to be concerned that “short-term rentals may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in our communities.”

And the senators say they have concerns that communities and consumers “may be put at risk through violations of sensible health, safety and zoning regulations.”

This letter comes less than a week after Airbnb released data on its listings, which states that Airbnb has taken down 2,233 listings in the last year that appeared to come from hosts listing multiple homes that “could impact long term housing availability.”

A conflicting recent report commissioned by advocates for affordable housing states that rental rates are rising most quickly in neighbourhoods where Airbnb is popular, and that Airbnb is responsible for gentrifying predominantly minority neighbourhoods.

The FTC is already in the process of looking into the on-demand economy as a whole, which included home-sharing sites, according to The Hill. Their findings haven’t been released yet, but the data that Senators Warren, Schatz and Feinstein are asking for could be included in that report.

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