Sharing Economy Goes Legit

Plus, Hawaii, the District of Columbia and Oakland County, Mich., best their peers in this year's Best of the Web awards, and the New Orleans iTeam analyzes crime stats to identify high-risk individuals and criminal social networks.

It’s safe to say that 2014 was the year of the sharing economy. Over the last few years, platforms like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb have given consumers a peer-to-peer option for hitching a ride or reserving a place to stay. While the platforms have become popular among consumers, this year governments wrestled with whether — and how — to regulate sharing economy services.

In an example of what future regulations may look like, San Francisco took action in early October to legitimatize short-term rentals. The Airbnb Law, as it’s called, represents the city’s effort to broker a regulatory compromise between multiple interests. It’s anticipated that this law will shape Airbnb’s political agenda as it works to formalize agreements with other governments.

Beyond regulatory issues, the sharing economy was hailed for its potential to help communities recover from disaster. In the wake of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, housing platforms helped displaced survivors locate temporary lodging, which can be a major issue following large-scale emergencies. While the White House has taken the lead in promoting the connection between the sharing economy and disaster response, local jurisdictions are getting on board. Airbnb announced in July that it had partnered with Portland, Ore., and San Francisco to work with the cities on emergency preparedness, pledging to launch disaster-specific URLs for residents to offer and locate housing. After a year full of headlines about uncertainty and regulations, symbiotic relationships like these might rise front and center.

The sharing economy could also be making a mark on government itself. New services bring the idea to local government. Munirent, for instance, lets municipalities rent equipment to one another. As the idea of what the sharing economy can leverage expands, it’s a topic that will continue to evolve not only in a regulatory sense but also as new benefits and partnerships emerge.

Back to the Year in Review: Making Sense of 2014

Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.
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