As many US cities face housing shortages and skyrocketing prices, Airbnb has come under fire for its part in the housing market crisis.
Though Airbnb does not publicly disclose data on such a granular level, housing activists like Murray Cox, started Inside Airbnb to track data on Airbnbs. Davide Proserpio, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, has also conducted extensive research on the platform’s impact.
According to their research, the most concerning accommodations are short-term rentals where the host does not stay in the unit. By using an extra place as a short-term rental, it takes a potential long-term rental off the map for people looking to buy or rent in that market and pushes prices up.
Due to these concerns, some cities, like New York and Los Angeles, have imposed regulations on short-term rentals, but it doesn’t seem to be helping mitigate the long-term impact of short-term rentals.
In response, Airbnb says that even cities with short-term rental rules have seen rents soar despite a decline in short-term rentals. They continued, “Leading housing experts agree the driver of the increase in housing costs is because our country has simply not built enough housing — that’s why the cost of housing is up everywhere, for everyone.”
Many continue to host on Airbnb to supplement their income. Educators, who are historically underpaid, earned more than $276 million by hosting on Airbnb in 2021. Also notable is that 45% of Airbnb hosts say that the extra income helps them afford their own homes. Conversely, critics argue that much of the negative impact from sites like Airbnbs doesn’t come from individual hosts looking to make a few extra bucks but from massive companies spending billions to buy thousands of properties as investments.
Because the housing crisis is affected by so many variables, the jury is still out as to what impact Airbnb and sites like it have on communities. One suggested policy that some, like Proserpio, have suggested is taking a more holistic approach and using taxes on short-term rentals in order to address housing affordability issues.