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Airbnb proponents say many homeowners rely on the site to help them cover living expenses in a sluggish economy that’s still rutted with high unemployment.

Growth has been driven by the lingering effects of the 2008 global financial crisis, as people who can’t land full-time work stitch together part-time gigs. Advocates liken Airbnb to homeowners who took in boarders during the Great Depression.

“These people depend on this additional income,” says Lisa Gansky, who wrote a book on what’s known as the sharing economy. “It’s supplementing essentials, allowing them to pay medical bills or allowing them to stay in their homes.”

According to a study by Airbnb last year, 56 percent of hosts in San Francisco use their earnings to help pay their mortgage or rent. The company is doing a similar analysis in Los Angeles.

Proponents say it’s part of a broader shift in the economy being propelled by an emerging peer-to-peer marketplace.

Websites such as Lyft, RelayRides and TaskRabbit enable people to cobble together a living by renting their cars, their couches, or their own time and expertise.

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