Mayor Adler addresses Austin’s sharing economy

Rajya Atluri

Austin Mayor Steve Adler discussed aspects of the city’s sharing economy and its relationship with local government Thursday.

“As we move forward in the 21st century, we’re going to have to find what is the intersection of sharing economies and government regulation,” Adler said. “It’s going to take companies and governments that can sit down and work together to find the best way to maximize the economies and the platforms that will still allow the government to be able to deal with safety issues. We haven’t figured out that place right now.”

Adler spoke at an event hosted by The Texas Tribune and moderated by its CEO, Evan Smith. Smith said many who were opposed to the city’s ride-hailing regulations are concerned for Austin’s reputation as an innovation, tech and disruption capital taking a hit. Austin should be a city that embraces the “new world,” but the current ride-hailing situation does not reflect that value, Smith said.

“On ride-hailing and on short term rentals, Austin appears to be hostile to the sharing economy,” Smith said. “Austin … ought to embrace the sharing economy — it’s entirely consistent with the zeitgeist of this city, and yet, at least to the outside eye on ride-hailing and on short term rentals, we appear to be hostile to the very thing that we ought to be about.”

Adler said Austin is not hostile to the sharing economy and the local government is going to do everything it can to appear welcoming.

“Austin needs to be the proving ground that can actually establish whether there’s a sustainable model of the sharing economy’s intersection with government,” Adler said.

Lorena Reyna, a TurnKey Vacation Rentals employee who attended the event, said there are better solutions to the short-term rental problems the city is facing.

“The problem is the enforcement of neighborhood ordinances,” Reyna said. “I believe the city should put resources into enforcing those laws as opposed to an outright ban, which as we know, whenever there’s a ban on a sharing economy thing, it goes underground.”

Reyna said it is unfair to demonize the entire vacation rentals space when there are just a few that could be shut down.

“I believe in the sharing economy and having common sense policies that bolster it and protect people and protect property but don’t limit innovation,” Reyna said.