The Rise of Sharing Economies and it’s Unseen Enclosures

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With the rise of Sharing Economies (a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human, physical, and intellectual resources, The People Who Share), many thought that this could signal the end of oppressive capitalist structures where individuals are pressured into an endless consumer cycle of purchasing items that are seen as vital to the survival and enjoyment of modern day life. This new system was thought to bring people together to share the resources they have with those who are unable to obtain said resource. Airbnb and Uber are seen as the pioneers of the Sharing Economy as technology has enabled the rise of peer to peer exchanges. While many embrace the ethos of the Sharing Economy and allow individuals access to their resources, others are exploiting this new niche in the economy and accumulating resources that were once available to the general public for their own private interest.

London is currently facing a housing crises as home ownership is at a 30 year low due to the fact that housing prices are increasing at a rate that is unobtainable as salaries have remained stagnant since the recent financial crises. This means that there is an increased size of the population that relies on yearly rental contracts. For a family with children, this is highly unstable as there is always the threat of an increase of rent at the end of a contract that may force the family to relocate to somewhere that has more reasonable prices.

With the rise of popularity of flat sharing platforms like Airbnb, many see it as supplementing the housing crises for numerous reasons. As Airbnb becomes the preferred choice of holiday accommodation for young travellers, it contributes to the $23 billion dollar vacation rental market. With such a valuable market, many landlords are finding it more profitable to rent to short term vacation renters rather than long term renters from London. As more and more properties are turning into full time Airbnb rentals, it takes away properties that are usually rented to long term renters and creates a scarcity of rental properties with a growing number of people unable to find suitable housing in London.

Many of the listings are also listed for the whole property rather than a room in the host’s house as the platform originally intended. Not only is the entire property rented, many hosts have multiple listings on Airbnb which indicates that the host is a professional land lord who runs the property as a business and does not live in any of the properties which is in violation of most short-term rental laws. Rather than sharing a property to create more options for accommodation and creating a common to benefit the host and the renter, Airbnb is taking properties away from the local housing market to benefit the host while displacing residents.

Many of the full time professional landlords are also letting their properties illegally as there is a 90 day per year rental limit that doesn’t require special permits. They are also able to bypass many food, tax, health and fire safety regulations that are required for hotels by the British Hospitality Association. Many local communities are also feel the disruption from a full-time Airbnb rental from the increase of noise, traffic, and displacement of local residents.

The rise of the Sharing Economy created a common for people to share high value capital resources like houses and cars. Paradoxically, the creation of this common also created new enclosures as people  continue to exploite the capitalistic nature of this society.

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