New York passed a new law on home-sharing to regulate Airbnb business

Last week New York imposed a regulation on Airbnb to disclose hosts’ information and transaction data to the authority. Under the new law Airbnb will have to report hosts’ information such as names and addresses through electronic reports. The regulation aims to combat against illegal short-term rentals and will go into effect in 180 days. Non-compliance will result in heavy fines.

Launched in 2008, Airbnb is a home-rental company rising from the new sharing economy. Like most businesses in the new economy to traditional industries, Airbnb has brought disruptions to the hotel industry. The new New York law aims to clamp down on unlicensed guesthouses and the rising housing stock resulted from short-term rentals. However the law may also infringe on hosts’ privacy.

The New York law was not the first authoritative attempt to regulate Airbnb businesses. Early this year Japan passed a stringent home-sharing regulation to ask hosts to register their listing and limit home-sharing in Japan to 180 days a year. Local governments in Japan are enforcing even stricter regulations in their areas. For example in Yokohama, Tokyo’s Shinjuku, Nerima, Bunkyo, etc home-sharing is banned on weekdays. The stringent law led to Airbnb dropping almost 80% of its Japanese listings.

As the new sharing economy emerged and thrived, new business models such as the Airbnb home-sharing developed ahead of regulations. While the new model injects dynamic energy into the business through introducing unique traveller experience, there are problems beyond regulation such as hosts avoiding lodging taxes, safety issues, blows to housing markets, etc. The new law will be able to tackle illegal rentals by keeping an eye on hosts to combat hosts that rent apartments that forbid short-term rentals, commercial operators that run unlicensed listings, etc. By curbing illegal rentals, more housing can be released back to the market. The regulation also secured the service with a regulated list of hosts. Despite all the advantages expected to come with the law, the law will almost ruin the original idea of sharing spare home space to people with a charge and strangle the model of creating values out of available resources.

The tension between the hotel industry and the new sharing economy has been an issue that needs to be resolved. More similar regulatory attempts are expected to come in future. The public should pay attention to the development.


紐約新法案打擊Airbnb共享業務

上星期紐約簽署法案規定Airbnb向當局提交屋主資料和交易訊息,包括屋主姓名和地址等,以電子報告的形式每月向紐約當局提交,用以打擊非法出租。新法於簽署後180天起生效,違例將予以嚴重罰款。

Airbnb於2008年成立,是共享經濟下迅速發展的房屋共享公司。許多共享經濟的公司或業務對傳統行業帶來顛覆性影響,而Airbnb也不例外,對酒店業造成衝擊。紐約市的新法旨於打擊非法租賃和短期出租帶來的房租上漲、空房率下隆的問題。然而新法將侵犯屋主私隱。

紐約並非首個對Airbnb業務進行規管的地區,今年初日本亦頒布針對民宿出租的嚴厲新法,民宿經營者需進行登記,出租期一年內亦不得多於180日,地區政府更進一步收緊做法,例如在橫濱、東京新宿、練馬、文京區等,民宿經營者不得在星期一至五出租房屋。新法下,Airbnb的日本民宿近八成下架。

共享經濟發展蓬勃,嶄新的商業經濟模式發展日新月異,不受法例規範和監管。雖然Airbnb的經營模式為旅客帶來獨特的住宿體驗,為行業注入活力和新意,但不受法例監管卻造成各項問題,例如屋主逃稅、住客安全問題、地區房租上漲等等。新法可望有效打擊非法的短期房屋租賃,並杜絕商戶經營未登記的物業等等。打擊非法租賃可把更多物業放回市場,同時屋主受監管安障了住客。然而,新法將扼殺透過共享閒置資源創造更大價值的概念。

酒店業和共享經濟間的衝突有待解決。未來對共享經濟模式將有更多的規管行為,大眾亦應留意發展。

 

How to reduce consumption of plastic bags

Korea plans to ban plastic bags in supermarkets and malls this year to further tighten its crackdown on plastic waste. At present, Korea has in effect a plastic bag levy scheme making it compulsory for retail shops to charge extra fee for plastic bags. The new plan is about to further reduce the use of plastic bags, obliging the 11,000 supermarkets and 2,000 shopping malls to provide instead recycled paper bags, cardboard boxes or reusable bags.

The plan is a stricter enforcement against the use of plastic bags, which eliminates the use of plastic bags at one of the major consumption sources. Hong Kong imposed the first phase of an environmental levy on plastic shopping bags in 2009, which came into full force in 2015 to extend to more than 100,000 retail points. Though the levy yielded a significant decrease in the landfill disposal of plastic bags from the retail industry in the initial phase, consumption of the bags rebounded in 2016 at more than 9%. A more stringent approach may be needed to cut down on the usage.

Imposing a ban in the retail industry can be one effective measure. Hong Kong may learn from Korea in the fight against the consumption of plastic bags. Countries or regions such as Australia, China, Kenya, Chile, Karnataka in India, etc also ban the use of plastic bags. While it is vital for the government to take the lead in reducing plastic bag consumption, citizens’ environmental awareness to cut down on the usage is just as critical. Citizens can reduce plastic bag usage according to the 4R principles, namely reduce, reuse, recycle and replace.

In order to reduce the usage, we should only use plastic bags when necessary. Replacing plastic bags with reusable ones is an effective way. To make the most out of used plastic bags, we should reuse used ones. For example, we can clean the used plastic bags and save them in a tissue box to be easily dispensed for reuse. Making creative use of the plastic bags is also a good idea, such as crafting artistic decorations, recycled bags, umbrella wraps etc. We should avoid throwing plastic bags away by recycling the bags at the “brown” recyclables collection bins. By minimising the consumption of plastic bags and maximising the use, we can help build a greener city.


如何減少使用膠袋

南韓計劃今年內禁止超級市場和商場提供塑膠袋,現時韓國實行塑膠購物袋徵費,新政將進一步打擊塑膠廢物污染。韓國1.1萬間超市和2000個商場在新政下只能提供紙袋、紙箱或可重用膠袋代替膠袋。

南韓的膠袋新政嚴厲打繫塑膠袋,從消耗源頭減少使用膠袋。香港於2009年推行塑膠購物袋環保徵費計劃首階段,並在2015年全面實施,涵蓋逾100,000零售點。徵費計劃雖在首階段大量減少來自零售業的堆填區膠袋棄置量,但數字在2016年回升逾9%,若要改善情況,需更嚴厲的做法。

香港可學效南韓,禁止零售業提供膠袋。事實上許多國家或地區亦已實施無膠袋的做法,如澳洲、中國、肯雅、智利、印度的卡納塔克邦等等。雖然減少膠袋使用由政府帶頭至關重要,但市民有環保意識主動少用膠袋亦必不可少。市民可參考4R原則來減廢,即減少(Reduce)、重用(Reuse)、循環再用(Recycle)和替代(Replace)。

為了減少使用,我們應在必要時才使用,儘量以可重復使用的購物袋代替膠袋。如非必要用膠袋的話,膠袋使用後亦要物盡其用,例如,清潔後可用空紙巾盒放好方便下次使用。或創意利用膠袋,製作成藝術裝飾、環保袋或雨傘袋等,亦不失為廢物利用的好方法。如果要棄置膠袋,我們應該避免直接丟棄,而應把膠袋棄置到「啡膠樽」回收桶,讓膠袋得以循環再用。綠色城市需要市民的努力,以減少使用和物盡其用來減廢。

How to live a normal pressure life

Recently I came across this blood pressure chart, which shows the blood pressure readings from low, normal, prehypertension to hypertension. Hypertension is the medical term for a high blood pressure. The normal blood pressure reading for an adult should be less than 120 over 80 (<120 systolic and <80 diastolic).

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There are many reasons that lead to hypertension, such as a stressful lifestyle, tight schedules, unhealthy diets, a lack of exercise, insufficient sleep, etc. All are commonplace in a hectic urban lifestyle. No wonder hypertension remains one of the most commonly seen diseases in urbanites. Other factors that contribute to hypertension include bad habits like smoking, drinking, etc, genetics and ageing.

While a busy urban lifestyle may be unavoidable, we can try to squeeze in healthy patterns to lower our blood pressure and relieve stress. The following is a list of items contributive to a normal blood pressure and a less stressful life:

  • Exercise more
  • Eat more vegetables, fruit, and less salt
  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol
  • Gain adequate sleep
  • Keep an eye on your body mass index (BMI) and lose weight when necessary
  • Manage stress

I believe everybody is well acquainted with the items, and the rest lies in how to realise it. Despite a busy schedule, I try to embed the items into my daily routine such as walking whenever possible. I also find apps that help you keep a healthy lifestyle very useful. There are lots of mobile apps out there that help you set goals and track progress. For example, some sports apps record your exercise patterns in a calendar, and encourage you to do exercise with regular reminders. These apps allow you to keep track of your goals with measurable figures and to adjust goals accordingly.

Everybody is different, so how to adapt the items into one’s routine varies too. Nevertheless, setting measurable goals and tracking progress are critical. Mobile apps can play a part here. I hope everybody can find a way to realise a normal pressure lifestyle.


如何保持血壓正常和身心舒暢

最近看見這張高血壓指引圖,以不同顏色標示血壓高低的標準,包括低、正常、高血壓前期到高血壓。高血壓是指血壓升高使心臟推動血液循環時的負擔加大。成年人的正常血壓普遍為收縮壓(Systolic Blood Pressure )小於120 mmHg及舒張壓(Diastolic Blood Pressure)小於80 mmHg。

導致高血壓的成因有多種,例如緊張的生活節奏、忙碌的工作日程、不健康飲食、缺乏運動、睡眠不足等等,在繁忙的都市生活中十分普遍,城市人都已習以為常,高血壓成為常見都市病。其他導致高血壓的因素包括吸煙和酗酒等不良生活習慣、遺傳和年老等自然因素。

雖然忙碌的生活方式無可避免,我們仍可儘量把良好的習慣融入到生活中,從而降低高血壓,同時釋放壓力。以下是一些保持正常血壓和減輕壓力的做法︰

  • 多做運動

  • 多吃蔬果,減少鹽攝取量

  • 減少攝取咖啡因和酒精

  • 保持足夠睡眠

  • 留意自己的身高體重指數(BMI),有需要時減重

  • 舒緩壓力

相信大部分人對以上的建議都不陌生,只欠實踐一步。像很多人一樣,我也十分忙碌,即使如此,我亦嘗試把建議融入到平時的日程中,如多走動等。市面上亦有很多手機程式能幫你健康生活,例如一些助你訂下目標和追踪進度的程式,還有許多運動程式能把你的運動紀錄記在月曆上,並定時提醒你做運動。這些程式讓你更容易查看自己的運動紀錄,包括數據和時間,讓你可輕易調整步伐。

每個人都不一樣,如何實踐低壓生活亦然,但設定可量度的目標和追踪進度必不可少,善用手機程式是其中一個用效方法助我們達標。