10 Steps To Create A Local Sharing Economy

The sharing economy is a great idea in theory, but it can only thrive if cities encourage it. Here’s how.

10 Steps To Create A Local Sharing Economy
[Image: Flickr user Phil Davis]

Cities are ideal for sharing things like bikes, cars, and office space–just look at the growth of bike-sharing around the world. The advantages are obvious. Sharing makes use of idle resources (like cars sitting in parking lots), and has the potential to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Every car shared is another that’s not on the road, which reduces congestion, pollution, and noise.


Shareable, the site for all things sharing, believes the sharing economy could be a big boon for cities, but that they need do more to facilitate it. “City governments can increasingly step into the role of facilitators of the sharing economy by designing infrastructure, services, incentives, and regulations that factor in the social exchanges of this game changing movement,” the site explains in a new report.

It adds: “We believe that fostering the growth of the sharing economy is the single most important thing that city governments can do to boost prosperity and resilience in times of economic crisis and climate change.” The guide, called Policies for Shareable Cities, suggests 32 policy ideas for cities to think about. Here are 10 of the best:

Free Parking For Car Sharers

Cities can “increase car-sharing participation by making parking spaces available for shared vehicles both on streets and in off-street public lots and garages,” says the report. Several cities have already done this. San Francisco, for example, offers discount rates at municipal lots.


Let People Lease Driveways For Parking

Allowing people to rent out their driveways would free up space for more car-sharing, and let home-owners supplement their income at the same time. This is something that private companies like Parkatmyhouse are already exploring.

Create Guaranteed Ride Home Programs

Many people don’t ride-share because they worry about exceptional situations: what if they need to work late, or get home early? Guaranteed ride home programs give “carpoolers peace of mind by covering the cost of a taxi ride or rental car in the event of emergencies or in case of an unexpected departure of the carpool partners.” Minneapolis already has such a scheme.

Incentivize urban agriculture

Read about this enormous urban agriculture project in Vancouver.

Cities can give tax credits (or other incentives) to property owners who allow farming on their lots, rather than leaving them empty. “Tax credits create an attractive incentive for property owners to open their land to community gardening or urban farming uses, with desirable public health and safety outcomes for cities,” the guide says. Philadelphia gives a discount on its yearly “vacant lot registry fee” if land is cultivated, for example.


Remove restrictions on food sharing

Hunger is often a function of food access, not supply. “Allowing people to share food publicly is an opportunity to build community and ensure that fewer people are struggling to find their next meal,” the report says.

Set up shared commercial kitchens

Cities can set up or subsidize kitchens for food entrepreneurs to get started. Entrepreneur Space, a kitchen space in New York, has generated $5 million for the local economy, according to the report.

Allow short-term rentals in residential areas

Sites like Airbnb have been hit by restrictions on short-term rentals. In San Francisco, you’ve set up an illegal hotel if you rent a room for less than 32 days. “We recommend that cities adopt more nuanced permitting policies and fee structures to allow short-term guests,” the report says.


Factor sharing into urban design

Cities can foster sharing activity by encouraging the creation of shared spaces for work, laundry, meals, and playgrounds.

Create jobs through “nano-enterprises”

Home-based entrepreneurs generate income by, say, renting out a room or parking space. But zoning codes, which separate home from commercial life, restrict such activity. That’s a brake on job-creation, Shareable says.

Let sharing businesses use idle space

Incentivizing property owners to lease out space on a temporary basis (or penalizing them for having vacant space) would allow “small and startup businesses to test their products and services without assuming the large financial burden of a long-term lease.” That would lead to more pop-up shops, and keep run-down streets looking vibrant.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.