Future of Sharing: Houston’s Response to the Sharing Economy’s Regulatory Challenges

Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston, Texas, from 2010 until January 2016, is well-accustomed to navigating the often murky waters of sharing economy regulation. Parker’s first experience with the sharing economy was using Zipcar’s technology to manage Houston’s fleet of light-duty vehicles. Later in her tenure as mayor, Parker worked to create a regulatory level playing field for the taxi industry and ride-sharing apps by lessening regulations on taxis and applying what she viewed as necessary regulations to the apps. “You can’t take a heavily regulated industry and de-regulate it overnight,” Parker said.

Parker also spoke about her experience with home-sharing (she currently serves on Airbnb’s Mayoral Advisory Board). The challenges Houston faces are different from those of cities like San Francisco and New York City, Parker explained, as Houston has no zoning, and is much more affordable overall than most other major cities is the U.S. However a particular city official may feel about the sharing economy, Parker believes that it’s time to accept the fact that it’s here to stay. “My generation, Gen Xers, and now Millennials, we all have very different ideas about ownership and how we want to interact with the world,” said Parker. “This is the future. Those of us—mostly Baby Boomers—who are making the decisions have to understand that the world Millennials want is not perhaps the world we wanted.”