Much like how Uber and other ride-hailing apps toppled the taxi industry, home-sharing platform Airbnb has revolutionized the way people travel, and hotel companies aren’t the only ones taking notice.
Since the site took off, critics have pointed to the questionable legality of whole-home rentals, which are prohibited in many municipalities for periods less than 30 days, not to mention the Uber-esque argument that most Airbnb “hosts” get by without having the same insurance or paying the same taxes and fees as their corporate competitors.
Despite those concerns, an article in Curbed puts forward that the biggest danger of the home sharing revolution is that it takes the neighbors out of neighborhoods.
Airbnb, some contend, has turned whole neighborhoods into short-term rentals, and has driven up housing costs by taking rental homes off the market, since many owners can make more money renting to weekend guests than yearlong tenants.
These criticisms are aimed at whole-home rentals, rather than shared or private room rentals within a house. While whole-home rentals may account for a larger share of listings, Airbnb does not publish data on what percentage of bookings are for whole properties, or how many homes are vacant when not rented to travelers.
That said, the housing market claims are spurious at best.
The argument that Airbnb is interfering with housing costs may hold water in competitive real estate environments such as San Francisco, where the company is based, but many cities where Airbnb operates have months worth of inventory waiting for buyers — why let those homes sit vacant while the owners wait for the sale?
And taking neighbors out of neighborhoods?
Sure, there’s something to be said about being able to know who is next door, but what about the owners who are renting their pads in order to keep their head above water?
As one host put it in the Curbed article, without Airbnb “I wouldn’t be able to pay tuition for my children’s schooI. I wouldn’t be able to afford my mortgage. I wouldn’t be able to work in this city.”
There is something to be said about leveling the playing field when it comes to taxes and fees, however, and Airbnb has shown it’s willing to do its part when cities work with them. Since 2014, the company has collected more than $110 million in lodging taxes, which sounds like it could be a much-needed source of revenue for our local governments.
Just like ridesharing, home sharing isn’t wrecking the market, it’s bringing it to more people while also allowing individuals to earn a few bucks. And if local governments play their cards right, it could be the next big boost in tourism revenue.