Last night, Channel NewsAsia aired an interview with Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, where he spoke about the issue of short term rentals in Singapore. The topic has generated much debate in Singapore recently, with concerns like safety, misuse of facilities and loss of privacy being raised. Here is the full interview:
In the conversation, Nathan speaks about some interesting stuff, like Airbnb founding story, how he made nearly a million dollars by the time he was in high school, and his take on the issue of short term rentals and stays in Singapore.
He raises, in particular, the issue of HDB flat owners being unable to list their homes on Airbnb, and says that he hopes that there will be a change in legislation to allow for this. After all, the platform has allowed many to earn a living or supplement their incomes simply by renting out their spare rooms.
“This is an opportunity for regular people to earn a supplementary income, and I think that’s an opportunity that is just as important to those who live in private homes as it is for those who live in public housing. Those are the middle class, or those below middle class people who can really benefit from a few extra dollars,” said Nathan. “So while we certainly respect why there are different rules for public and private housing, I think that there is an opportunity here to help those who are most in need as well.”
While he concedes that it is difficult for the Airbnb team to get a clear understanding of the laws that govern the thousands of cities they have entered, Nathan is quick to point out that in many of the countries they’ve been to, users of the platform have been quick to welcome them, allowing them to enjoy “incredible growth” in recent years.
Short Term Rentals: A Grey Area In Singapore
Earlier this year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) asked Singaporeans to offer their feedback on the issue of short-term stays and rentals in Singapore. This was in response to the rise in popularity of platforms like Airbnb and Roomorama. The current “guidelines” states that homes in Singapore, if put up for rent, must be leased for at least six months. This puts short term stays/rentals within a legal grey area; while not exactly illegal, the HDB has confiscated flats from homeowners for renting them out to tourists. At the time, then National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan also said in a blogpost that “some things are harder to share”.
While we clearly see the value of platforms like Airbnb and the potential that it has in bringing travellers unique experiences, what ultimately matters is the feedback we, as notoriously reticent Singaporeans, gave all those months ago. Guess we’ll have to wait for the URA to reveal their findings.