May 7, 2020
For centuries, people have been sharing their homes with overnight guests or working from their homes. And with the rise of the internet and other new technological tools, it’s easier than ever to communicate easily and efficiently. That’s made it possible for online home-sharing platforms to flourish and for more people to run businesses from their home offices.
Now, the COVID-19 outbreak has placed a new emphasis on the home—not only living in it, but also working from it. At the same time, in the wake of unpreceded economic damage, now more than ever, people will need to rely on their homes as possible sources of income. But with the increased accessibility of home-sharing and the increased practicality of home-based businesses, regulators have imposed new restrictions on these common uses of residential property.
Recently, in a teleforum hosted by the Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project, Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches joined Brooks Rainwater, senior executive and director of National League of Cities’ Center for City Solutions, to discuss local regulations in response to home-sharing and home-based businesses historically and in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Riches explained the importance of flexibility in the uses of residential property. When it comes to regulatory responses to the use of this property, he said, the focus from cities and towns should be on the negative externalities associated with a property—the noise problems occurring at a home, for instance. That is, people should be free to use their property as they see fit unless that use causes an external harm to someone else. And during this pandemic, we’ve already seen the good that can come from letting people use their residential property as they see fit: We’ve seen, for example, “remarkable responsiveness” from home-sharing hosts, many of whom have been volunteering to give up homes to first responders during this crisis. “To the extent we allow that continue, it would be a net positive,” Riches said.