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To Help with Pressure from Cities, Airbnb Turns to Former Mayors

The sharing economy platform is forming an advisory committee of former local government leaders to help it navigate challenges at the city level.

(TNS) — Airbnb is recruiting a set of former mayors to help the vacation-rental company navigate its continuing challenges with regulators at the city level.

The company said Friday that it has formed an advisory council of former mayors from Houston, Philadelphia, Rome and Adelaide, Australia. It hopes to add more mayors, especially from regions like Asia and Latin America.

As Airbnb has expanded across the globe since its founding in 2008, its most ferocious fights have been with city governments, often over taxes and Airbnb’s effect on a region’s housing supply and prices. Three senators attempted to elevate the issues to a national level last week, when they sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the regulator to investigate the industry.

The ex-mayors on Airbnb’s advisory board are expected to meet quarterly and receive compensation for their work, said Christopher Nulty, a spokesman for the company.

Airbnb hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as an adviser on Wednesday. He will focus on strengthening corporate policies on racism and other discrimination on the site.

As Airbnb builds up its defenses, the company faces pressure from a coordinated effort led by mayors in several cities around the world. Mayors from Paris, New York, Seoul and other cities are working together to produce a rule book for dealing with Airbnb, Uber Technologies, and other tech companies that are shaping their economies. Airbnb sued its hometown of San Francisco last month in response to the recently passed city legislation requiring Airbnb to police who uses its site or face fines.

The members of Airbnb’s mayoral advisory board include Houston’s Annise Parker, Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter, Rome’s Francesco Rutelli and Adelaide’s Stephen Yarwood. Airbnb plans to call on those advisers to be consultants on specific problems, as well to act as ambassadors to city governments. They will “review Airbnb policies, provide feedback on upcoming Airbnb products and initiatives, and provide Airbnb with valuable insights gained from years leading some of the world’s greatest cities,” the company said.

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