Airbnb seeks ownership rule change to give hosts equity in its business

United States: Airbnb has asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to reconsider its security ownership rules as it wants to give its hosts equity in its business.

The specific regulation that Airbnb is seeking to change is the SEC’s Rule 701, which governs ownership of equity in companies to bring in a new shareholder class for workers who participate in gig economy companies and their services.

In the form of a letter to the SEC, Airbnb said: “As a sharing economy marketplace, Airbnb succeeds when these hosts succeed. We believe that enabling private companies to grant hosts and other sharing economy participants equity in the company from an earlier stage would further align incentives between such companies and their sharing economy participants to the benefit of both.”

Current SEC regulations require any private company with more than 2,000 shareholders to be registered, which is causing issues for Airbnb.

Since its establishment in 2008, the $31-billion-valued company has featured more than five million listings but not every homeowner who has leased their property via the site may be able to own equity in the business.

There is also the issue of handing out U.S-based equity when most properties listed on the rental platform are located outside of the U.S. market. The service now claims to manage accommodation and short-term rentals across 81,000 cities worldwide in over 190 countries.

Airbnb has sought to publicly emphasise the importance of its hosts as more than simply gig economy workers for the marketplace provider.

However, while these hosts would be afforded unprecedented levels of flexibility within the service, they would not be afforded the perks that come with being conventional company employees, including paid holiday leave, overtime and health insurance.

That means there would have to be further rule amendments before any such agreement is reached between Airbnb and the SEC.