Airbnb hyllas bland resenärer för möjligheten att bo prisvärt som en lokalbo, samtidigt som lokalbor och besöksnäringen kritiserar bodelningsplattformen för att den bidrar till överturism och upptrissade hyror och huspriser. Läs om dess för- och nackdelar.
Den gigantiska korttidsuthyraren har sedan 2008 helt rört om och förändrat besöksnäringen. Samtidigt som Airbnb demokratiserade sökningen efter reseboenden genom att tillhandahålla en plattform som ansluter resenärer till värdar som vill utnyttja sina oanvända utrymmen, har det San Francisco-baserade företaget också mött en del motstånd.
Airbnb ansvarar för mer än 2 miljoner gästvistelser varje natt (siffror innan Corona), och det säger sig självt att många branschfolk, hotell, stadslagstiftare och invånare på populära Airbnb-platser inte är nöjda med den så kallade “Airbnb-effekten”. Så vad är egentligen grejen med Airbnb och är fenomenet hållbart för både städer och branschen som helhet?
Läs om plattformen (text på engelska) som har sin utgångspunkt i delningsekonomin, dess fördelar men främst dess nackdelar ur ett hållbarhetsperspektiv.
The benefits of Airbnb
At its simplest, Airbnb provides a win-win platform for hosts and travelers. Hosts, especially those in popular downtown locations, get to utilize the unused spaces in their home to help pay their rent while providing a welcoming environment for travelers – and they get to meet new, international faces. Travelers have the benefit of unique, local spaces at reasonable prices and a local host.
When co-founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk started the first Airbnb out their own apartment, people told them that their idea would never work and that strangers would never trust other strangers. The fact that the platform not only worked, but has grown to be such a recognized, (mostly) trusted exchange between strangers from all over the world does speak positively of the way that genuine human connection can unite us.
Airbnb has also been stepping up recently in a variety of ways, making positive changes to their platform and taking stands on local issues. Airbnb recently launched a program called Open Homes, which gives Airbnb hosts the opportunity to open their home and provide refugee housing, medical stays, and disaster relief. Additionally, Airbnb has taken measures to guard against documented racism on the platform by implementing a blind booking in which Airbnb hosts can’t see a traveler’s pictures until the reservation has been accepted or declined.
And finally, Airbnb has been vocal since 2018 about its mission to serve all stakeholders and its vision to be good for society. Chesky wrote that “Airbnb must serve and strengthen local communities, while expanding diversity and acceptance in the world…. One area we are focused on is making sure that, in markets that are significantly housing constrained, the Airbnb community is helping people stay in their homes and share their communities and not negatively impact housing”. In March of 2018, Airbnb released its first Annual Stakeholder Report, and they recently expanded on these goals in a January 2020 report.
Does Airbnb force locals out?
Chesky’s above quote provides a fitting segue into one of the biggest critiques of Airbnb’s business model: is the platform providing hosts in highly tourized areas the ability to afford their rent, or is it actually forcing locals out? There have been numerous case studies and research studies to support the latter, due to housing inflation, overcrowded neighborhoods, and the growing number of listings actually owned and managed by companies.
There have been numerous studies indicating a correlation between the number of Airbnb listings in a given area, and that zip code’s increasing housing prices. A study from 2014 in Los Angeles indicated that in the neighborhoods where most Airbnbs were listed, the rents increased a third more quickly than the city average. A wider US study suggested that a 10% increase in Airbnb listings led to a 0.42% increase in rents and a 0.76% increase in house prices. Of course, there might be other factors at play (like the fact that the number of Airbnb listings in an area is likely correlated to how desirable that area is, which would likely cause rent that increases more quickly that other zip codes), but there’s no denying the fact that in desirable areas, rent is increasing quickly, and off-setting rent with Airbnb is only a solution for some.
Additionally, residents in Airbnb-heavy locations have expressed concerns about the way that Airbnb affects their communities and the atmosphere in their neighborhoods. Residents in Oahu have expressed that they worry their sense of community is being damaged. Other residents have expressed concerns with the general issues that come with Airbnb guests frequenting their neighborhood short-term, like parties, general behavior, and parking congestion. It’s inarguable that technology shapes our physical realities. Just think about the effect that Waze has had on neighborhoods, when it redirects traffic into an otherwise quiet neighborhood to save commuters a few minutes on their route.
Finally, Airbnb has transformed from a Craigslist-esque platform allowing local guests to utilize their unused spaces, to an interactive lifestyle magazine. As Airbnb has risen to popularity, property managers and homeowners have taken notice of how lucrative short-term rentals can be over long-term tenants – over 2-3 times. Now, many spaces listed on Airbnb are spaces purchased by property managers or multiple home owners specifically for Airbnb guests. This, undoubtedly, does harm local residents of cities, especially popular tourist destinations facing housing crises, as the number of homes open for long-term tenants dwindles.
More subtle disruptions caused by Airbnb
Airbnb’s effect on local housing seems to be the most obvious potential harm the platform causes. But there are subtler forces at play that are worth considering.
When people travel, they often book Airbnbs instead of hotel rooms. What this actually does is remove business from an establishment that provides stable jobs with benefits and regulations, and puts that benefit into a more insecure economy. Now, Airbnb hosts are doing the jobs hotels once did, and they often clean their spaces themselves. Additionally, there are no hotel concierges when guests arrive. Due to the rise in DIY travel and technology, travelers go into their experience expecting to have the tools they need. Instead, they often face confusing directions to hidden lockboxes, difficulty checking in, or difficulty getting to the location of their Airbnb in general. In “entire home” listings, there are no locals present to greet and guide guests. Companies like Prontopia bring human touch back into the travel industry by providing in-person assistance to travelers.
Cities may also be losing out on taxes. While Airbnb does pay taxes, it could be paying much more in line with the 13% tax that is paid by formal hotels in the 13 largest cities. Many large cities are beginning to crackdown on Airbnb, requiring cities and hosts to regulate Airbnb short-term rentals in the same way that hotels are being regulated.
And finally, there’s the argument that Airbnb contributes to a phenomena called “AirSpace” (coined by Kyle Chayka), which is a global network of homogenous non-spaces. Maybe you’ve noticed this phenomena before, but it’s hard to ignore the sameness-as-a-service industry once you’ve spotted it. These spaces – coffee shops, bars, coworking spaces, co-living spaces, and yes, Airbnbs – are characterized by motifs of recognizable comfort and quality. You’ll find minimalist design, avocado toast, brick walls, craft beer, script fonts. Due to the homogeneity of these spaces, moving between global “AirSpace” becomes frictionless, so that you might not even notice where one space ends and the next begins. The effect that AirSpace could and is having on our travel experiences is that of providing a “safe distance” from which to observe local cultures, while being surrounded by simultaneously familiar and unique items that make us feel comfortable.
So what’s next?
Big cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam, and New York are cracking down on Airbnb regulations, requiring licences, limiting the time an entire residence can be rented out, or banning short-term rentals entirely to protect limited affordable housing stock. It’s safe to assume this trend will continue, which will likely provide a higher barrier to entry for Airbnb hosts (thus limiting the number of listings) and likely a fewer number of rentals overall. However, is it possible that these regulations would cause a divide between hosts trying to earn income from a side hustle, and boutique hotels or property managers using Airbnb to expand their businesses?
Alternatives are also cropping up, like Fairbnb, a platform similar to Airbnb but one that prioritizes transparency over everything, as well as contributing funds to the community.
What do you think about Airbnb? Do you host, or use it personally when you travel? Or, do you live a neighborhood you feel has been negatively impacted by Airbnb listings?
Text: Haley Johnson /Prontopia
Photo credit: Pixabay, Airbnb, Roman Bozhko on Unsplash
Editors Note: Texten skrevs innan Coronapandemin bröt ut, men är likväl läsvärd för sina reflektioner kring bodelningsplattformen ur ett hållbarhetsperspektiv.
Läs om hur de hanterar Corona här.
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