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This opinion piece looks at the dark side of Airbnb, and asserts that while the platform is making some people a lot of money – primarily property owners – it is also driving up rents and eroding communities.
For me, it was almost too on-the-nose. Full disclosure: I am not a neutral party with regards to this issue. Just this past weekend, I had to vacate an apartment I'd been renting for nearly four years, because my landlord realized it would be more profitable to rent it short-term via Airbnb rather than maintaining a long-term tenant. Of course, he was right.
The very day after my move, I stumbled upon this article. The author, John Harris, first approaches this issue from the perspective of the community: He points out how entire apartment buildings have essentially become hotels, leaving long-term residents neighborless, and with the feeling of living amidst transients. I can sympathize: When I moved to my apartment in Granada, Spain, all of the other tenants of the apartment were long-term renters. We used to have monthly potlucks, watch one another's children and cats, and water plants when people were on holiday. Now, all but one of the apartments in the building is being used as an Airbnb, and the last tenant has confided to me that they plan to move because they miss having neighbors.
According to Harris, this is par for the course:
Between 2016 and 2017, the number of people using Airbnb to stay in places around the UK grew by 81%. But by the company’s own account, 55% of its listings were for entire properties rather than the chi-chi spare rooms of its own corporate myth.
More apartments for Airbnb also means fewer available properties for long-term tenants, driving up rents — and according to Harris — contributing to the accelerated gentrification and social stratification of neighborhoods, often along racial lines.
Harris tentatively advocates for more governmental regulation of the platform on a local level. Not sure I entirely agree, but it's a thought.