List Story > NEWS > Detail
[Oversea News] Can big companies and cities grow together?

Cities collaboration and negotiation with large companies

As cities grow and emerge as innovation hubs, they need to face the growth of big companies and organisations. This can foster opportunities, as cities, businesses and startups can work together  not just to improve services, but also to ensure long term economic vitality by creating jobs and supporting broader community investment, but on the other they can present challenges as well. 

Scroll down to read insights, inspiring quotes and thoughts on cities' collaboration, negotiation and relationships with companies, highlighting the case of Barcelona and Airbnb.

"The sharing economy is full of opportunities, such as facilitating effective and sustainable sharing of (scarce) resources, allowing cheaper and easier access to goods and services as well as increased social cohesion in cities."

<BSR - The Business of a Better World>
Cities make the sharing economy work, as they provide the dense and free agglomeration of customers, labor, and infrastructure that these companies require. But it remains an open question whether cities and the sharing economy can be friends or enemies. In the beginning, cities and platforms navigated a controversial relationship, as companies like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb proudly worked to disrupt (or “break”) existing laws and regulations. Cities fought back by imposing fines, taking companies to court, sending cease and desist orders, and generally seeking to regulate the companies the way they did existing businesses. This early antagonism created a challenging environment for long-lasting partnerships.

In Cities and the Innovation Economy: Perceptions of Local Leaders, NLC surveyed city leaders (that is, mayors and council members) on their views of the sharing economy. Broadly speaking, city leaders say that they welcome the innovation and improved services that these new technologies provide to their constituents. But clear challenges remain: 51 percent of cities describe their relationships with sharing economy companies as good, while 33 percent say they are very poor—leaving little middle ground. Nevertheless, results indicate a growing interest from city leaders in partnering with sharing companies. Some early adopters like Portland, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., (and now a great swath more of cities) have developed tax collection arrangements with home-sharing companies.

Every city is different—and the way they each incorporate and regulate these companies should be based on local conditions - NLC (National League of Cities)

New solutions and business models do not always fit into the same regulatory frameworks as similar traditional services. This requires city leaders to assess the impact of new technological interventions on existing businesses and make sure that the best interests of community members is at the forefront. Above all, city officials’ primary concern should center on the well-being of the people in their community, both the providers and consumers. Equity is a key consideration in our nation’s cities and technology has the ability to both create and alleviate broad inequality. Technology can improve lives and solve problems, but decision making must be intentional—local leaders ensure every day that our cities are cities for all and the sharing economy and broader innovation economy is now a core component of our future.

"Barcelona no està en venda"
Barcelona has become in the last decades one of the most touristic locations in Europe, which means that short-term rentals have increased consistently in the city. Lately, is not uncommon to notice banners hung from balconies, almost as an attempt to claim the city itself. "Barcelona no està en venda",it reads: the city is not for sale. And Barcelona is definitely not the only place in which Airbnb is accused of turning summer sour. Amsterdam is heavily restricting short-term lets by residents after street protests against the swamping of the city by tourists last year, and so did Paris, Berlin, Venice and Lisbon.

Developments in the sharing and platform economy can go fast. Sometimes governments cannot keep up at the same pace as the platforms - Kajsa Ollongren, former Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam

The problem is the amount of private spaces being rented in the city, which is done illegally in several occasions, and at the same time is depriving the locals of habitable spaces and is threatening small local businesses. Barcelona’s efforts to rid itself of illegal vacation apartments could have caused the most effective crackdown on Airbnb yet. In late May, the city told the site to remove 2,577 listings that it found to be operating without a city-approved license, or face a court case potentially leading to a substantial fine. Then on June 1, Airbnb and the city launched a new agreement that gives Barcelona officials access to data about what’s being listed around town. For the first time, city officials will be able to refer to host data that details specifically where apartments are located and who their registered hosts are, something that could previously require substantial investigation. They will be able to track these hosts ID numbers to verify that their linked apartments do indeed have permission—and it will be far easier to pursue rule-breakers and, if necessary, fine them.

Taken together, these measures have global significance for cities managing their own fights against out-of-control vacation rentals. Firstly, they provide a ready-to-go model that makes enforcing local rules not just feasible, but relatively easy. Secondly, they show that concerted pressure from local governments can indeed push Airbnb and other home-sharing sites to take real action.

Does regulation enhance mutual growth?
The Barcelona City Council has recently introduced stricter inspection and control measures against the rental of apartments that do not comply with local regulations. Barcelona’s deputy mayor of urbanism Janet Sanz, appears to have signaled that renting rooms in your home via AirBnB, is not illegal (subject probably, to the limitations put on whole properties, when rented via AirBnB to tourists : the council promises more clarity soon) It appears that… the renting of whole properties is the councils primary concern hence the need for a tourist licence and the restrictions in some areas, of getting one. “All we ask is that Airbnb obeys the law,” said Janet Sanz, the counselor responsible for housing. Home-sharing, currently not covered by any legislation in Spain. No one would object to someone letting out a room in their home, she said, but not five or six. “That’s treating your home as a hotel.”