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Updated Airbnb City Portal Widens View on Rental Compliance

The refreshed metrics dashboard offers more insights into vacation rental compliance and tourism metrics. It lets officials get a sense of where travelers hail from and how much they’re spending — but also which properties may not conform.

Airbnb has updated its City Portal platform to give municipalities and tourism organizations more data related to compliance with vacation rental regulations and tourism statistics.

City Portal arrived four years ago, designed to help cities and other groups better regulate the vacation rental industry and to foster relationships between tourism officials and property owners “hosting” their home on the popular digital booking platform.

The refreshed City Portal dashboard, announced Feb. 22, offers a variety of data points and other metrics related to tourism. Officials can get a sense of where travelers are coming from, how much they are spending and other key marketing metrics. But city officials — who are charged with enforcing vacation rental regulations — can also easily dig into the data to learn which properties may be out of compliance. Any city can request access to the City Portal by initiating contact with Airbnb. One that makes use of it is California’s capital.

“The city utilizes the Airbnb City Portal to obtain information that helps the city ensure operators are in compliance with city code and provides an expedited way for the city to request Airbnb take down ads for noncompliant properties,” Jennifer Singer, media and communications specialist at the city of Sacramento, Calif., told Government Technology via email.

The development and enforcement of vacation rental ordinances has taken on fresh urgency in cities of all sizes, given the explosive growth in the availability of homes and apartments for travelers, a rise enabled by digital platforms like Airbnb. The industry has disrupted housing at all levels, often with the unintended consequence of affecting both availability and prices of rental inventory and privately owned homes. Some cities, like Indian Wells, Calif., a tourism mecca in the Coachella Valley, have all but banned the operations, while others have enacted policing and restrictions to help curb the industry’s worst side effects like noise nuisances and over-crowding.

The newest version of City Portal was developed following feedback Airbnb received related to the platform released in 2020. The newest features on the City Portal platform “were informed by direct feedback from existing government and tourism organization partners,” Jackie McGraw, Airbnb communications manager, told GT via email.

“By giving cities more insight into short-term rental activity in their jurisdiction, they can make more informed decisions about short-term rentals and develop data-driven policies that balance the economic benefits of home sharing with concerns they may hear from their constituents,” McGraw said, adding: “The updates to the City Portal also make it easier for local governments to connect with our team to quickly resolve issues related to short-term rentals, and will help support compliance after they’ve adopted new short-term rental rules.”

It remains unclear whether housing groups were consulted on the update to City Portal, but in January, Airbnb announced the formation of its Housing Council to advise the company on housing issues. The council is made up of elected officials, housing experts and others, according to the company.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.