News / Vancouver

Sharing economy potentially not fully realized: SFU study

Non-profits and co-operatives can play an important role with the right support, says political science professor

Ride-hailing companies like Uber are not allowed to operate in B.C. as of summer 2017.

Evan Cheung/For Metro

Ride-hailing companies like Uber are not allowed to operate in B.C. as of summer 2017.

Regulating companies like Airbnb and Uber is a good start but it may not be enough if governments want to realize the full potential of the sharing economy, according to a SFU study.

Big tech companies can hurt traditional businesses like those in the taxi or hotel industries because they often have to abide by stricter regulations, says Andy Hira, a political science professor at SFU. Plus, recent concerns about labour practices at Uber and concerns about Airbnb hosts not paying their fair share of taxes can cause consumers to think twice before using their services, he added.

But the sharing economy can take a different form, too – one driven by non-profits or co-operaetives, says Hira.

“From our point of view, the government needs to be involved to promote these kinds of things. In the end, there will be big benefits for society.”

For instance, co-operatives that facilitate car-sharing or tool-sharing can help low-income households gain access to goods and services they would otherwise not be able to afford, he said.

Vancouver is home to several car-sharing companies and at least one peer-to-peer rental service but they have not “taken off” to their full potential because they need more government support, according to Hira.

“The sharing economy cannot be stopped – they should be regulated and there is a real upside to the sharing economy that hasn’t been developed it and it requires government promotion and government guidance or even investment.”

The City of Vancouver proposed new rules for Airbnb last week that would prevent people from listing secondary suites and second homes as short-term rentals. Ride-hailing companies like Uber are not allowed to operate in B.C.  

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