Jun 25, 2020 - Technology

Startup positions hourly home-sharing service as a pandemic boon

Woman sitting in living room on a couch with her laptop
Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

With people largely stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, startup Globe says it's been able to provide customers with a space away from home to get some work done or have quiet time by renting someone else's empty home by the hour. But San Francisco officials are not fans of the service and have said that it's violating regulations.

Driving the news: In a letter he is sending to San Francisco’s mayor and California’s governor, Globe co-founder and CEO Manny Bamfo argues that his company’s business is helping alleviate challenges residents are facing during the current pandemic.

  • He also asks to work with city and state regulators to essentially green light Globe's business model to preempt future such disputes.

Background: In late May, the San Francisco City Attorney’s office informed Globe that its business is violating the ongoing shelter-in-place order as well as the city's short-term rental rules. Globe says it responded on June 9.

  • "Globe’s operations not only violate San Francisco’s current health order, but also the City’s short-term rental rules," city attorney deputy press secretary Meiling Bedard said in a statement to Axios this week.
  • "In May the City Attorney’s Office requested information about Globe to establish whether it was in compliance with the law. Instead of cooperating with the City, Globe has refused to work with our office at every step. In the midst of a global pandemic it’s crucial to ensure that companies are operating safely and in accordance with the law."

"What really prompted this was the customers — we had several customers reach out to us and say, 'I don't want to be cooped up with my husband,' " Bamfo tells Axios.

  • "Yeah there’s the COVID-19 crisis, but there was also another crisis which is that we as humans are not designed to be cooped up this way."
  • Bamfo also says that the company has been following the same public health guidelines as home-sharing and hotel businesses, along with the CDC's guidelines for disinfecting community facilities, requiring hosts to clean their homes for each booking. He adds that since the pandemic began, hosts have not been present at their homes during guest stays, in line with the shelter-in-place order.
  • The company also believes that it's exempt from short-term rental regulations because guests do not stay overnight, and city officials have explicitly affirmed this exemption in the past.

By the numbers: Globe operates in 12 markets in California, including San Francisco.

  • 150 new hosts sign up every day nationwide, and 95% of current hosts are property managers. It's also working with some employers who want to help their workers while they're working from home.
  • 85% of bookings are for a location within four blocks (so guests are picking homes near where they are).

The bottom line: Globe is far from the first startup to face challenges from city officials who aren't keen on seeing companies offer new ways for people to live and move that may not fit current regulations. It likely won't be the last.

Go deeper: Read Globe's full letter here.

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