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Contents

2 Executive summary
4 Methodology
Research design 4
Limitations 5
6 Impact of peer-to-peer accommodations on different stakeholders
Peer-to-peer accommodation platforms 6
Housing sector 6
Public sector 7
Key points 8
10 Data that would help stakeholders make decisions
11 Potential ideas that use data to improve regulation of the sector
Key points 11
12 General public view on peer-to-peer accommodation platforms
13 Conclusion

This is work in progress. It is likely to be updated as we continue


our work. Keep an eye out for updates!

How can it be improved? We welcome suggestions from the


community in the comments.

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 1

Executive summary
The Open Data Institute is looking into ways that data can
help improve the peer-to-peer accommodation sector.

The ODI is conducting research before developing prototypes to help consumers,


business, the public sector and local communities make more informed and timely
decisions such as whether to rent or let a property, where to grow a business or
how to build a good housing sector. The discovery work has covered research on
user needs, a forthcoming report on policy, and some recommendations for areas
of opportunity that will be built and tested over the coming months.

The aims of this user-needs research are to:

Understand the (perceived) impact of peer-to-peer


accommodation platforms on communities, housing, and the
wider economy

Gain better insight into peoples experiences with peer-to-peer


accommodation platforms

Understand what data will help people make better decisions

Learn about potential ways data can be used to improve the


peer-to-peer accommodation sector

Identify gaps in the system

We researched a range of stakeholders including the general public, peer-to-peer


platforms and local authorities. As part of this research, we also conducted a
number of guerrilla and semi-structured interviews with stakeholders in the sector,
including UK government, local authorities and businesses.

In guerrilla interviews, we found that the majority of peer-to-peer accommodation


users enjoyed their experience of platforms. More than half of the respondents
perceived the platforms to be a good thing1, felt that the service was good and
they had had positive experiences. While many said they chose or would choose
to use the platforms for family or group trips, only a few said they would use them
to rent their own space.

A quarter thought peer-to-peer accommodation platforms created a more


authentic experience for travellers and helped give them a new perspective on a
destination. While 20% expressed concern about trusting the general public as
hosts, fearing poor experiences.

After these interviews we spoke with various stakeholders peer-to-peer


accommodation platforms, lettings agencies, specific representation groups,
bluelight services, local governments, businesses, media and national statistics
representatives to get a deeper understanding of the sector. We found that
central government, local authorities and housing associations had concerns
around health and safety, such as fire hazards, as well as social concerns, such as
the decreasing number of properties available to rent long-term or buy in the

1
Answer from one of our Guerrilla interview questions: Do you think p
eer accommodation platforms are a good thing?

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 2

market, and increased noise or disruption.

Some highlighted the impact of being unable to access information that platforms
held information they believed would help them understand the sector and
improve their services. For instance, firefighters said that they could learn more
about each homes usage and prevent incidents more easily.

Firefighters said that they could learn more about each


homes usage and prevent incidents more easily.

Many stakeholders expressed an interest in accessing data from cities, in order to


better understand what purposes properties are used for. Some businesses
wanted to access information held by utilities companies and peer-to-peer
accommodation services in order to make better strategic decisions. For instance,
one estate agent we spoke with said that this information could indicate how
successful they would be in letting a property.

We also discovered that bluelight services, namely fire services, considered data
from peer-to-peer accommodation platforms could help them to address
concerns around ensuring safety and preventing fires. They also thought that data
on property use across cities could help them assess the impact that platforms
may have on their services, such as whether there is a correlation between
properties let through peer-to-peer accommodation platforms and reported
incidents.

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 3

Methodology
Research design
The ODI chose to conduct both semi-structured and guerilla interviews, to gain
macro and micro insights of the peer-to-peer accommodation sector.

Semi-structured interview is a method that uses a clear set of guidance. It


includes topics and questions that must be covered during the interview, enabling
reliable and comparable results. Using this method allowed us to have informal
conversations with individual stakeholders, which we ran for 30 minutes each. It
also gave us the flexibility to develop a deeper understanding of topics that could
be relevant to our research. We conducted 19 semi-structured interviews over a
period of three months, from August to October 2017. We spoke with 32
participants from London, two from the Netherlands, and one from the US.

The interviewees came from a number of stakeholder groups, including


peer-to-peer accommodation platforms, lettings agencies, specific representation
groups (such as renters associations), bluelight services (such as fire services),
local governments, businesses, media and national statistics representatives.

We asked questions about:

the impact of peer-to-peer accommodation on their industry,


city, or business

peer-to-peer platforms facilitating business opportunities

important and useful data or technologies

better aligning the needs of short-letting and housing markets

With this method, we aimed to understand the impact of peer-to-peer


accommodation services on different stakeholders, the type of data that could be
useful for making better decisions, and potential prototypes that could be built.

Guerrilla interview is a method of speaking to people who are immediately


available and willing to participate often the general public. Using this method
gave us the opportunity to test out ideas and get quick, general views from
participants. We conducted three rounds of guerrilla interviews in the Shoreditch
and Liverpool Street areas of London, interviewing 16 people in total. Each
interview lasted about five minutes.

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 4

We asked the following questions:

Have you ever heard about peer-to-peer accommodation


platforms and have you ever used them?

What was your experience of using these services?

Do you think there can be problems with these services?

Do you think peer-to-peer accommodation platforms are a good thing?

The objective was to gain a general understanding of experiences with


peer-to-peer accommodation platforms as well as thoughts about their impact.

Limitations
Although we found answers to our research questions, there are some limitations
to keep in mind. The freedom and flexibility of semi-structured interviews have
their disadvantages because they make direct comparison of answers difficult,
since each interview is unique.

Taking this limitation into account, we were still able to collate a wide range of
answers.

Guerrilla interviews also had their limitations. First, we encountered an unequal


demographic spread, meaning that we interviewed more males and females in
their 2030s than 60s, and a small sample size of 16 people who were willing to
be interviewed. The interviews mainly took place in East London, meaning the
pool we interviewed was not necessarily representative of London or the UK in
general. Guerrilla interviews are by nature quick, so interviewees tend to be less
rigorous and less reliable in their answers. Consequently, their insights can
sometimes be shallow. Bearing in mind this limitation, people interviewed in the
street are also motivated, excited and curious to participate.

It should be noted that we have consciously limited our geographic focus to


address the UK peer-to-peer accommodation sector. Nevertheless, we have
balanced this limitation by thoroughly researching regulatory trends around the
world, which will be published in due course.

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 5

Impact of peer-to-peer
accommodation
As mentioned in the methodology section, we identified
stakeholders as peer-to-peer accommodation platforms,
lettings agencies, specific representation groups, bluelight
services, local government, businesses, media and national
statistics representatives.

Peer-to-peer accommodation platforms


Since peer-to-peer accommodation platforms are the main actors of this new
sector, researching their impact from various other stakeholders enables us to
position them.

We found that peer-to-peer platforms were aware of both the positive and
negative impacts they had on others. One of the people we interviewed from a
platform described their business as creating benefits for businesses, workers
and consumers by building better regulation and more trust across the whole
sector. This platform stated that their business intention was to emphasise
accountability, instead of trackability, while having hosts and guests identity and
reputation publically accessible, in a similar way to credit checks.

However, platforms also have found there to be conflicts of interest with local
authorities. For example, one platform said that the problem they encountered
when they started speaking with cities was that although they do not support
professional home-sharing, they want to be notified when people start moving to
professional home-sharing. Indeed, local authorities expressed that they wanted
to be alerted, even though the platforms representative added that home-sharing
only affected 1% of housing in London. We could assume in this context that
professional home-sharing would refer to hosts whose revenue mostly relies on
renting out properties.

Peer-to-peer accommodation platforms said they were interested in encouraging


better sharing across platforms to build trust in the sector. However, one platform
representative pointed out their responsibility to protect the privacy of platform
users. It was also noted by another respondent that since privacy issues could not
be regulated after they happen, preventative action is needed, in particular to have
a plan and compare this with different models.

Housing sector
Of all the sectors affected by the emergence of peer-to-peer accommodation
platforms, housing is clearly the most obvious, as the availability of housing to
local people is likely to be affected. However, our findings show that real estate
agents do not consider peer-to-peer accommodation services to be a challenge
for their business and specific representation groups are keen to get a better
understanding of them.

Lettings and estate agents interviewed did not classify peer-to-peer


accommodation platforms as competitors. One real-estate agent said they were
complementary activities and that, if properties were assessed efficiently,

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 6

peer-to-peer accommodation platforms could be an additional source of revenue


for property owners whilst also maintaining the majority of homes for long-term
rents. Some properties are less desirable for long-term lets, but could be
successful on peer-to-peer accommodation platforms, for example, properties
located above businesses, slightly further from transportation or in a less
residential neighbourhood.

Similarly, another agent said they did not see the impact peer-to-peer
accommodation could have on their industry, as their target customers were
tenants looking for a much longer renting period and more secured deals, which
differs to the current target market of the peer-to-peer sector. A lettings agency
founder commented: I dont see those peer-to-peer platforms as providing a
housing solution, so we are not competing. Peer-to-peer businesses target
short-term lets, such as travellers, whereas estate agents look for more long-term
and sustainable housing.

they were concerned the number of rented rooms in


London may decrease due to peer-to-peer
accommodation platforms

Specific representation groups have emerged due to increasing housing


challenges in some parts of the UK. One group campaigns to improve conditions
for private tenants. They commented they were concerned the number of rented
rooms in London may decrease due to peer-to-peer accommodation platforms,
since property owners could benefit more from using those platforms than from
letting properties to long-term residents. Another, recently set up, representation
group of short-term lets described their role as researching facts on short-term let
platforms through occasional surveys and professional polling, understanding the
entire situation and educating people about it.

Public sector
We discovered the peer-to-peer accommodation sector might impact the public
sector. An interviewee from the fire services said that people renting on
peer-to-peer platforms were less informed about safety implications, less familiar
with their environment and less careful than permanent renters or owners. The
representative of a company using smart data to help firefighters said that many
people in the city did not treat homes rented through peer-to-peer
accommodation platforms as their own, which made them more careless. The
interviewee later suggested the need for peer-to-peer landlords to be educated on
fire safety, and that the responsibility must be taken by government.

Fire service representatives had no data on the impact of the peer-to-peer


accommodation sector on fire incidents, as there was insufficient data available to
enable comparisons between properties let through this sector and other types of
properties. One of the respondents expressed that local and national database of
how different properties are being used, e.g. whether a property is let, used by the
landlord, or used for commercial purposes did not seem to exist. Thus, they
could not make any precise statements about the impact of peer-to-peer
platforms on the change of fire risks.

A policy lead at a city council noted an increasing number of complaints such as


noise, rubbish left outside, people not knowing how to get in the building and
unfriendliness towards local residents as a result of peer-to-peer platform users in

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 7

the city. The interviewee also stressed that the situation in their UK city is
problematic since they have limited powers to create new housing regulations,
and depend on negotiations with central government. They said that even if there
are regulations there is no enforcement from local authorities as long as they do
not encounter problems.

Many said they believed that people using peer-to-peer accommodation platforms
for long-term lets are decreasing the number of properties available on the market.
A representative from a local authority said that a few of the boroughs had
researched this and observed a reduction of permanent homes to rent, but it
remained difficult to determine a real cause.

In order to solve the homelessness issue, they


expressed their will to encourage accommodation
platforms to offer a homeless person a home for a
number of days.

One city is carrying out a massive push to reduce homelessness and its mayor
wants to meet the target of having no more rough sleepers by 2021. A
representative of the city put forward that peer-to-peer services should take into
account the social implications of increasing levels of short-lets in a city. In order
to solve the homelessness issue, they expressed their will to encourage
accommodation platforms to offer a homeless person a home for a number of
days. The representative suggested that hosts renting out their place for 180 days
a year could offer 2 nights to a homeless person as a tax.

However, some of the city councils couldnt see peer-to-peer accommodation


sector helping but only adding complexity to their role and administrative tasks.

15% of all stakeholders said they believed that those platforms could make
society better. One commented that peer-to-peer platforms rating system could
affect society positively, as hosts and renters could give each other ratings.
Therefore neighbours of peer-to-peer properties should also be able to voice their
opinions about guests; for example, a platform that we interviewed has set up a
complaints page for neighbours for this purpose. Hosts would then ensure that
their guests behaved in line with neighbours wishes, which would foster better
relations.

Key points
Our findings show that the platforms interviewed were conscious about their
positive and negative impact on the sector. They said that they did not believe it is
their role to enforce regulations and think that the government should do so.

Lettings agents feel neutral towards the situation as they do not see peer-to-peer
accommodation platforms as their competitors.

Fire services representatives acknowledge that their insights into the potential
impact of peer-to-peer accommodation platforms on safety are low. They would
need to have more data about the use of each property in order to analyse and
see whether there is a correlation. Besides this, bluelight services are keen to
support and educate landlords regarding safety procedures but suggest that the
government take responsibility for it.

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 8

As for local authorities and communities, peer-to-peer accommodation services


present a challenge as local authorities expect to witness an increasing number of
complaints from neighbours surrounding properties rented on platforms, an
increasing number of homeless people in cities, and a decreasing property stock
available for long-term lets on the market. The situation in some cities can be
described as problematic because of the limited power to create supportive
housing regulations for cities. One of the respondents explained that this was the
reason why only local authorities facing problems take action.

The majority of the participants were hopeful and see the peer-to-peer
accommodation sector as having the potential to improve society. One believed
that the peer-to-peer rating system of platforms could make people more
conscious about their actions and thus make society better. In addition to that,
another stakeholder suggested that these services could serve as a temporary
housing solution for homeless people.

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 9

Data that would help


stakeholders make decisions
During interviews, lettings agents shared that better access to data, such as the
level of utilities consumption, from each household would be helpful as they could
help to determine their commercial success as either long term or short term lets.
One interviewee noted that all sorts of internal information were important, such as
current property prices, customer transaction history, statistics on how far a
property is away from the next lettings agent branch, since they would act as
indicators for how likely the business will be successful in letting the property in
different markets.

Fire services representatives showed interest in a more complete view of housing


data. They said in the interview that they did not have a complete picture of who
lives where and for what purpose, and that this was a huge challenge for all fire
services. Therefore, getting more information about the use of buildings would be
useful but they were also aware that sometimes access to this data is not free and
it may not be stored under the same format. They did not mention privacy.

Similarly, councils disclosed that they would want to have some central resources
to be able to check regularly, to see what homes are rented and for which period
of time and to understand the real impact of the peer-to-peer accommodation
platforms in their cities. Some are simply curious about the type of data that
peer-to-peer platforms are ready to share. For example, one of the interviewees
said they would be interested in the type of data that they could collect directly
from them.

Regarding platforms, they stated that they would want to learn more about
short-term rental stakeholders, as they are a new industry. They also said they
were interested in local reports in order to understand local pressures in different
cities and towns, as well as a proof of residency of their users.

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 10

Potential ideas that use


data to improve regulation
of the sector
During our interviews, we also invited participants to suggest several ways to
improve regulation in the sector in the preparation for the upcoming research
paper on regulatory approaches to peer-to-peer accommodation.

A large majority of stakeholders that we talked to agreed that if hosts in London


wanted to rent more than 90 days, they should seek permission from local
authorities. Many mentioned putting a system in place where peer-to-peer users
could query an address to see if it had correct permission from a local authority to
rent.

A platform recommended using existing regulations instead of searching for a new


regulatory model as it would be less time consuming and using government data,
such as council tax, to regulate and track whether someone is currently living in
the property. Platforms and housing representatives mentioned having landlords
licensed as a potential enforcer of the regulation.

Peer-to-peer accommodation platforms we interviewed ask for more clarity on


Londons 90-day rule.

One of the respondents suggested new ways of regulating, such as adding a


button in the peer-to-peer accommodation application that would help report
crimes to the police directly and working with platforms to open up data to create
better informed discussions.

In addition to this, an interviewee added that instead of trying to regulate


peer-to-peer platforms, they should be given more space to evolve. Based on his
experience in the pharmaceutical industry, personal contact could lead to a better
trusting environment.

Another participant recommended that more testing/experimentations needed to


be done in order to create better regulations, which would lead to higher trust and
more frequent use of the platform. As the interviewee said, the goal would be to
build open license prototypes and test them.

Key points
In order to reinforce the 90-day rule in London, platforms and the housing sector
suggest that landlords register and get a license from local authorities, so that
data about the use of each property could be generated.

One recommended using existing regulation systems in order to save time, others
support testing and experimenting with new systems or new designs. Another
suggested that platforms should be trusted and given more time and space to be
self-regulated.

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 11

General public view on


peer-to-peer accommodation
platforms
We learned from the guerrilla interviews that all participants have heard of
peer-to-peer accommodation platforms. Some have used them before or are
currently using it. Several of them have never used such platforms but know
people who have, and only one person will experience the service for the first time
in the near future.

The peer-to-peer accommodation platforms users, that we interviewed described


their experience as good, homey and personal and found the service easy
and cheap to use.

As for those who have never used the service before, a small amount said they
would prefer hotels because they were more comfortable and could be booked
within a short notice. Many reported that they simply have not yet had the
opportunity to use the service, as they either did not travel often or did not have a
spare room to rent out.

A few of the interviewees answered that they would use peer-to-peer


accommodation platforms if they were traveling in groups or families because
there would be more space for kids, it would be less expensive and more
convenient. A smaller number said they would use the service to rent out their
own place if they had the opportunity. The results thus showed that people are
more likely to use the platforms for traveling than renting out their properties.

Many people answered that they could not see or were unaware of any problems
that those platforms could cause. Some had heard or had themselves had bad
experiences with peer-to-peer accommodation platforms and one would not want
to rent out their own place due to trust and convenience issues.

A few people were concerned about rooms not meeting standards such as
cleanliness or expectations set by pictures and online descriptions. Some also
thought that living with a host could cause problems, as hosts and guests may not
get along. Others worried about safety during their stay, and some shared that
cancellations made by either hosts or guests could also be troublesome.

Although some participants expressed concerns about peer-to-peer


accommodation platforms, a large majority of them agreed they were a good
thing while a few considered the system as fair. On the positive effects of such
platforms, a few mentioned that they were good opportunities to meet locals,
learn new cultures and make new friends. A similar number said that these
platforms could also foster competition in the hotel industry.

Open Data Institute 2017 / Case Study User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders 12

Conclusion
This piece of research is part of the overall work the ODI is currently doing in
finding ways for data to be used to help make better decisions in the peer-to-peer
accommodation sector.

During a discovery phase (starting in summer 2017), the ODI has been doing some
desk research around examples of policies being implemented around the world
(what they were focussing on, how data was referred to). Based on a combination
of the policy research and this stakeholder user needs research, the ODI identified
areas of opportunity to progress in the next alpha phase of the project. The
opportunity areas represent topics where the ODI could focus its efforts during the
second and final phase of the project.

Several ideas were tested during workshops with various stakeholders in October
2017. Based on the feedback received, the ODI will focus on specific
opportunities such as working around portability of reputation between platforms,
creating a data observatory to measure the impact of the sector, finding ways for
local data to be shared in a standardised way with hosts and guests, or working
around risks based on an overview of complaints collected. Well be sharing more
on this work very soon.

The ODI will continue to work openly and publish research findings as well as
regular project updates.

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