I’ve written about gentrification and the impact on inner city neighborhoods like mine. Today, I’d like to introduce you to a real nightmare ruining my neighborhood and other neighborhoods all over the country.
I’m going to approach it from several vantage points. First, as a person who is living the firsthand nightmare of being surrounded by illegal, unlicensed short term rentals that bring party happy tourists into quiet neighborhoods. Second, as a person who has watched many friends get booted from their rental properties because their apartments are worth more as short term illegal rentals for tourists. Studies in cities like New York City and San Francisco show the impact of illegal and unlicensed AirBnB short term rentals on homelessness and increasing the unavailability of long term rentals in cities already facing issues by not having enough affordable housing. It’s not pretty. Get ready for an increase in homeless in a town or city near year.
The art installation you see on the left comes from the creative minds of two women in my neighborhood. I was pleased to see this come so quickly after I’ve started emailing and calling my city councilwoman about what’s been going on all around me.
Over Memorial Day weekend, a Coney Island-style stand-in popped up on a porch on Royal Street in Bywater. The art piece featured two Bywater caricatures on a satirical billboard: “Welcome to the Bywater, where the vacation never ends!” Artist Caroline Thomas, who paints Mardi Gras floats for Royal Artists, created the piece and posted photos on Facebook. The spread went viral. Meanwhile, dozens of people — including many out-of-town visitors — posed for photos, gawked at and talked about the piece outside her home.
And her neighborhood is full of those visitors. Most of her block offers a room (or entire home) on Airbnb, she says. She counted 140 Airbnbs within her neighborhood, compared to just a handful of apartments for rent listed on sites like Craigslist.
“We noticed over the past six months a definite shift in the neighborhood,” she says. “Big packs of tourists where you see 20 people going down the street with rolling suitcases and you’re like, ‘What’s happening?’ … We walk outside and people are taking constant photos of our house. At first it was charming, then you start to feel like an animal in a zoo.”
She may feel like an animal in a zoo but I feel more like a hostage in my own home. I have an endless parade of strangers at all hours of the day and night within inches of my bedroom. It’s hard to park in front of my house. I frequently hear noises that you’d expect from a frat house that’s known for wild parties. People from New Jersey–who basically never even live here or come here any more–are buying houses on my street and renting them out for around $200 a night. Take $200 x 30 and you’ll have a monthly income for a small apartment in Tokyo. However, Tokyo has a lot of well paying jobs. New Orleans does not and long term rentals–while rising to east coast levels–are way too high for New Orleans incomes. I’m losing neighbors and gaining party-throwing crime bait.
My roommate Chascarillo Meow and I have been struggling with a lot of anger over our neighborhood (the Bywater) and decided to work it out with some art. We’ve slowly come to realize that the entire neighborhood is being overrun by Airbnb, to the point where it’s near impossible to find long term leases (140 Airbnb listings versus 18 apartments up on craigslist). Every house around us is running an Airbnb hustle, and specifically the one to the left of us: the woman that owns it has multiple properties in the neighborhood, she doesn’t live on premise, heck, she isn’t in town half the time, she’s packing as many as 10 people into each side of the shotgun, and it’s back to back rentals. It’s bachelorette weekends and birthday getaways every day of the week over there. I used to live on a quiet block and now it’s packs of bros heading to Booty’s for craft cocktails. I walk outside and people are taking selfies in front of my house. Markey’s and the Country Club (though both very considerate establishments) are completely overrun with tourists, and no long function as the neighborhood establishments they once were.
I know this is touchy subject, because everyone knows someone who’s using Airbnb to supplement their income, but take a second to think about what you’re doing to your city. All 140 of those properties (excluding a few, I’m sure, that are just offering up something like a couch or are only renting it out a few times a year) could be filled with locals. People that pay taxes and care about potholes and our police and whether Pres Kabacoff is going to build high rise apartments along our riverfront. And people displaced from the Bywater will start filling up poorer, more vulnerable neighborhoods in the city, and those people in turn will be displaced. Pre-Katrina, people were spending 19% of their income on rent. Now it’s 41%. And when people like the lady next door are charging $250/ night how can locals compete? Her price for renting it out for a month? $5,000. That’s Tokyo prices.
Here is my letter to my city councilwoman that I sent on May 14th.
Hi! I live at (address redacted for obvious reasons) and am at my wit’s end dealing with the short term air bnb next to me at (house numbers redacted). The owners live in NJ and are never here. The property manager appears to live in San Francisco. It is like living next to a frat house. I live next to a legitimate b&b with owners in resident and it’s like night and day. Also, I can tell you that I’ve lost 4 friends whose landlords evicted them to do the same set up. We are totally losing our neighborhood to these things. The same people have just bought a property across the street and are planning to do the same thing. I don’t have time to list all the issues I have had but just ask yourself if you would want complete strangers walking within inches of your bedroom window at all hours of the day and night. One time it was with about 20 bicycles.
Yes I said 20 bicycles at all hours of the night and day rolling within inches of my bedroom window. Most of these folks act like my street is an extension of Bourbon Street. They also seem to be unaware that they’ve introduced incredible levels of muggings in my neighborhood because most of them aren’t very streetwise and don’t know how to deal with an inner city neighborhood like mine. We may be gentrifying but we are a long way from being a quiet little burb. These folks are like walking crime bait. There are laws surrounding these things but the city doesn’t have the resources to enforce them.
I also live next to one of the few licensed B&B’s in the neighborhood with resident owners. They pay their taxes, their fees, and they follow the rules. Their business is being hurt by the black market short term rentals that have spread like wildfire the last year or so. My neighborhood is not zoned for multiple commercial ventures. However, this is what’s happening now.
My neighbors used to be the folks that worked in the quarter like musicians and artists, writers, barbers, waiters and just hard working people. If they are like me and own their house, they’re still here and live in fear of the potential increase in property taxes and service fees that will have to come with supporting all this activity that is totally out of place in a neighborhood. Plus, property values are sky rocketing. If they are renting, they better hope their landlord isn’t struck by the greedbug because they will be booted and will join a huge number of people having to find apartments in a city where there are fewer and fewer options all the time.
This is not unique to New Orleans. All you have to do is start searching and you will see how New York, San Francisco, and even small cities and towns are dealing with this. Here’s a blog relating issues that Air Bnb’s are causing in LA.
However, Airbnb has become politically controversial in high-priced, regulation-obsessed cities like Los Angeles and New York. Hotels and hotel unions quite understandably see Airbnb as competition in the short-term lodging industry, and wish to regulate it intensively (if not to destroy it). One common anti-Airbnb argument** is that Airbnb, by making short-term lodging more affordable, actually reduces the supply of traditional apartments—that is, apartments leased for a month or more at a time). The argument runs as follows: units that are on Airbnb for a few days at a time would, in the absence of Airbnb, be rented out as traditional apartments. Thus, Airbnb reduces the housing supply and raises rents.
This argument rests on an essentially unprovable claim: that Airbnb units would otherwise be rented out as traditional apartments. More importantly, the argument proves too much. If Airbnb hosts reduce the supply of apartments by not using their houses and spare rooms as traditional apartments, why isn’t this equally true of hotels who are not using their rooms as apartments, or homeowners who are not renting out every spare room? And if homeowners and hotels are reducing the rental housing supply, why shoudn’t they be forced to rent out their units as traditional apartments?
Finally, the argument rests on the assumption that Airbnb includes a significant share of the rental housing market. For example, LAANE (a union-affiliated policy organization based in Los Angeles) recently issued a report claiming that Airbnb takes ,7316 units off the Los Angeles rental market, which “is equivalent to seven years of affordable housing construction inLos Angeles.” But since Los Angeles produces very little “affordable housing” (whatever that term means) this statistic proves nothing.
A better way of understanding Airbnb’s impact, if any, on rents is to compare it to the total number of housing units in Los Angeles. There are just over 1.2 million housing units in the city of Los Angeles; thus, Airbnb units are roughly 0.6 percent of the housing market. There are about 700,000 rental units in Los Angeles—so even if every single Airbnb unit would otherwise be part of the rental market, Airbnb units would comprise only 1 percent of the rental market. (I very much doubt that this is the case, if only because since some Airbnb units are in privately owned homes and not every part-time Airbnb landlord wants a permanent roommate). Thus, it seems to me that even if every single Airbnb unit would be used as traditional apartments in the absence of Airbnb, its impact on regional housing markets would be small.
That analysis does not stand up to study. Here’s an article in The Examiner about the impact in San Francisco. Its Mission neighborhood is particularly hard hit.
San Francisco is once again debating how best to regulate short-term rental websites like Airbnb, after a law legalizing the practice went into effect less than four months ago.City planners have since said the law is unenforceable and needs to change, a position supported by Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors.But just how to strengthen the law remains a point of contention, as does the question of what impact short-term rentals are having on San Francisco’s housing stock.Today, a report will be released by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose that provides new analysis of the impact of short-term rentals on The City, drawing comparisons between longer-term hosts and evictions and estimating that in some neighborhoods Airbnb units could comprise as much as 40 percent of potential rentals.
Between 925 and 1,960 units citywide have been removed from the housing market by hosts renting out entire units on Airbnb for more than 58 days, the report estimates. While this total comprises a small fraction of San Francisco’s 244,012 rental units, it does represent up to 23.2 percent of the total citywide vacant units, which are estimated at 8,438, the report says.Airbnb is not the only short-term rental website with listings in San Francisco — VRBO, for example, is the second-most popular — but the report only analyzed Airbnb because data for other companies was unavailable. The report notes that “rentals for private and shared rooms would reduce the available rental stock even further.”The data was not provided by Airbnb, but rather compiled through online research.The impact in San Francisco varies by neighborhood, with the greatest impacts in the Mission, Haight-Ashbury/Western Addition, Castro-Eureka Valley and Potrero Hill-South Beach.In the Haight, for example, nearly 32 percent of the vacant rental housing units were listed on Airbnb, some 122 total. In the Mission, 29 percent of potential rentals, or 199, were listed on the website. Another estimate says the Mission percentage could be as high as 40 percent and as high as 43 percent in the Haight.“Airbnb has made a lot of claims that they are not impacting our housing stock. This demonstrates that they clearly are,” Campos said during an interview with The San Francisco Examiner. “And that in some neighborhoods like the Mission the impact is so significant that it’s definitely pushing people out.”The report draws a comparison between the number of evictions in neighborhoods with the most hosts, though notes there is no way to draw a direct connection. In the Mission, for example, there were 315 hosts last year and 323 evictions.“There seems to be a connection,” Campos said. “We won’t know for sure until we actually get Airbnb to give us the information.”The report draws a distinction between commercial hosts, those booked in excess of 58 days, and casual hosts, and bases its analysis on 6,113 Airbnb listings identified in December, of which nearly 4,200 were casual hosts. The impact on the housing stock is based on commercial hosts, which the report defines as those not supplementing living expenses but treating short-term rentals as a steady source of income.Those debating the regulations talk about striking the right balance, such as with the cap on the number of allowable stays per year. Current law states there can only be 90 days for unhosted stays but unlimited days when a host is present. That is being proposed to change to 120 days for all types of stays by the Planning Commission. Campos is pushing for a 60-day cap. A proposed short-term rental measure for the November ballot proposes a 75-day cap.The report said that if the existing regulations were enforced, the current listings of 6,113 would decrease to 5,557. With the 120-day cap, they would decline to 5,706. A 60-day cap would lower them to 4,471.
Here’s an Alternet article on Air BnB’s “Parasitic Impact on New York City”. It’s an article on a New Yorker who has done a study on the impact on affordable housing.
Airbnb has permeated New York City’s housing market and its impact has been parasitic. Since its creation, the apartment-rental startup has been praised as a shining example of collaborative consumption, but like many aspects of the “sharing economy,” there’s a dark underbelly to its success. Some of the most disturbing details can be gleaned from the new website, Inside Airbnb. The site, and its interactive NYC map, are the work of activist Murray Cox. I caught up with Cox to discuss his findings and the emerging fight against Airbnb.
Michael Arria: What inspired you to create the website?
Murray Cox: There were a few things that inspired and motivated me to create the Inside Airbnb website. Firstly, I noticed the marketing campaigns that Airbnb ran in the New York City subways last year stating that “Airbnb was great for New York.”
At the same time it was widely reported that many Airbnb hosts were operating illegal hotels and that neither the hosts nor Airbnb were collecting taxes. There was an active and public debate in Albany about the laws, and a legal battle to get Airbnb to release data on how their rental platform was being used.
I get suspicious when a company engages in a public relations campaign while laws are being debated by elected officials, or in the courts. It seemed that Airbnb was being completely unaccountable to the community, yet asking for the laws to be changed for their benefit.
I was also inspired by work I did over the summer with DIVAS for Social Justice at the Weeksville Heritage Center. We taught young children from the neighborhood about gentrification using STEAM subjects. My contribution was to use statistics and maps to allow the students to understand some of the forces that shaped and is now changing their community. That experience, and seeing the reaction from the public to various exhibitions of the student’s work made me realize that data-driven storytelling about the world around us and important issues is very powerful.
MA: Did your findings confirm your suspicions? Did they surprise you?
MC: I started off just looking for data on Airbnb in my neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in central Brooklyn. I knew of a few people in my community that rent out entire apartments in their multi-family homes via Airbnb, and based on other data I had seen, I suspected that this might be widespread.
Once I saw the data for my neighborhood, it both confirmed my suspicions and surprised me. At least 1,224 Airbnb listings were on the Airbnb website for Bedford-Stuyvesant, with 633 (51.7%) of those being for an “entire home/apartment.” Looking at the calendars and reviews for the entire homes/apartments, I found that more than 90% of them were available for more than 60 days out of the year, and on average received a review from a guest once a month.
This directly refuted Airbnb’s claims that “87 percent of Airbnb hosts share the home in which they live.” And more importantly, 633 is a large number of apartments being taken off the long-term housing market in a neighborhood with historic records of homelessness, displacement and reduced housing affordability.
In addition, 43.5% of the listings in Bedford-Stuyvesant were by hosts with more than one listing, sometimes multiple entire apartments or multiple rooms in an apartment building. This is not a story of “sharing” or of a “sharing economy.”
Once I collected and analyzed the data for Airbnb in Bedford-Stuyvesant, I decided to collect data for the entire city, and saw that the same story was repeated throughout the city. I then went about building a site that made it easy for anyone, even without a statistical background, to see the true story.
Here’s further evidence of the impact of Air BnB on NYC. Basically, it’s made already unaffordable and unavailable housing even more unaffordable and unavailable.
Here’s another article at Slate featuring a view point of some one who has rented their house out in Marfa, Texas.
When I first began listing my one-bedroom adobe house in Marfa, Texas, on Airbnb, the service seemed like a godsend. When I took a weekend trip, I’d host tourists from Austin; their rental fees would more than cover the cost of a few tanks of gas and a nice dinner. The rewards weren’t just financial: The people who stayed in my house felt more like houseguests than clients. After a visitor left, I’d find a handwritten thank-you note on the kitchen table, leftover snacks in the fridge, and once, a charming pencil drawing of my cat scratching his ear. And since the hotel options in town are limited, plenty of visitors were happy to pay below-market prices for an authentic Marfa experience, housecats and all.
This utopian vision of regular people helping each other out (and making a little money along the way) is a cornerstone of Airbnb’s PR strategy: “It’s like the United Nations at every kitchen table. It’s very powerful,” Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky told attendees at a hospitality conference last year. “For us to win, no one has to lose.”
But that’s a more contentious claim than it might seem. Recent years have shown there are plenty of profits to be made in the short-term-rental world—and big profits tend to produce both winners and losers. Airbnb’s top 40 hosts in New York City have grossed more than $35 million combined. It didn’t take long for the original hosts of the so-called sharing economy to find themselves competing with enterprising property owners. “There are entrepreneurs out there who see that there’s a huge difference between the cost of a hotel room and what you can get on Airbnb, and they take advantage of it,” says Neal Gorenflo, co-founder of the nonprofit Shareable. “Basically, there’s a dramatic difference in the price of the same commodity that’s normally in two separate markets. People who have the means realize they can exploit that difference.” In a recent blog post, Gorenflo calls this “the dark side of the sharing economy.”
It’s easy to see why many landlords would be tempted: They stand to make much more renting apartments to short-term guests at higher rates than they would if they signed up tenants for yearlong leases. In many cities (although not in Marfa), laws protect tenants somewhat, but property owners are finding creative workarounds. In San Francisco a man is suing his landlord for unjust eviction, claiming that he was kicked out of the rent-controlled apartment where he’d lived for nearly a decade, allegedly so his landlord could list it on Airbnb.
“We have a dwindling stock of rent-controlled units in San Francisco,” says Steven Jones, editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. “Any of those precious few units going to visiting tourists rather than permanent residents certainly adds to the housing crisis here.”
I bump into Air BnB trippers every where. They usually sit out on the stoops eventually next door or they wind up on the bar stools in any number of our local bars. You just walk around and see all these strangers sitting on stoops where your friends used to live and you think, well there went another one.
These Air BnB idiots are easy to spot. That’s undoubtedly why the muggings are going up along with the rents that people around here can’t afford. I ask them why they chose an illegal rental over an actual licensed B&B or hotel. First, they all don’t know they’re basically breaking the law and staying at an illegal hotel. It all looks innocent to them and they think they’re actually helping bring money into our neighborhoods. Their answer is always that it’s cheaper than the hotels or the B&Bs. I tell them it’s because the hotel taxes are what pays for our police, our schools, our roads, and a lot of the things that need fixing here in New Orleans. I explain they are enabling people to make money while avoiding paying for the wear and tear on the city that all of you cause including the crime you’ve brought here. So, crime bait, you really thinking you’re spending enough money here in the city to make up for the fact that what you’re paying for in nightly “rent” is going up to New Jersey?
C’mon. They’re in these places because they can get them on the cheap compared to the legitimate places. You really think they’re also spending lots of money in the city? But, like Caroline says, why should they care about affordable housing and neighborhoods when they have brunch?
Then, I tell them, I hear you walk on the floors. I heard you arguing last night. I almost called the police because I thought some one was getting hurt. Oh? You were just “playing cards”. Really? Did you know you held a conversation outside my bedroom window and that I gig until early morning? Did any of you think that dragging 20 bicycles past my bedroom window might wake me up or bother me? Do you think that I might not like going to the grocery store loaded down with sacks and coming back to find I can’t park anywhere near my home?
Oh, great, you’re spending some money here. That makes up for it all. In your case, more of your money is going to New Jersey than New Orleans. Now you want to think about it next time you do this to some one else? Would you really like to live surrounded by Air BnB tripsters coming and going loudly all the time while you’re trying to work, sleep or just relax? You just wanted to save money and be part of a neighborhood the New York Times keeps calling hip. Let me tell you about the families that actually use to live in that place when I first moved here. They ain’t here no more. But, hey, you’ve got your brunch!
Somebody may be making a killing off of all of this otherwise the New Jersey carpetbaggers wouldn’t have bought the double across the street that used to be home to a nice black family and doing a repeat. It’s certainly not the folks that are having to look for apartments in other parts of the city with rents that are now displacing the working poor. It’s certainly not benefiting me although my house price is going up. I’m more afraid that I’ll have to sell because if the property taxes catch up to the market value, I’m fucked.
Let me point you to another New Yorker with something succinct to say: Airbnb Will Probably Get You Evicted and Priced Out of the City.
Renting your place on Airbnb might help you pay your rent, but it’s making New York City — and San Francisco, Montreal, Berlin and other popular destinations — even less affordable than they already are.
The young and mobile love Airbnb. It’s a step up from crashing on a friend or a stranger’s couch without shelling a month’s rent on a three-day stay at a hotel. It’s also a great way to make up for rent that’s “wasted” on an empty apartment.
‘In an attempt to make an extra buck, you may be slowly screwing yourself out of the market.’For those of us trying to survive in some of the most expensive cities in the world — where everyone wants to live, but fewer and fewer people can afford to — it might even be what allows us to be able to pay the rent.
But wait until you are looking for your next place to live, and see the going rates for rentals in the city.
If you look at the economics of it, Airbnb is ruining your life. Or, at least, your chances at a lasting life in the city. In an attempt to make an extra buck, you may be slowly screwing yourself out of the market.
It’s making New Orleans totally unaffordable and it’s turning the historical neighborhoods with their unique cultures and traditions into mini-Bourbon Streets. It’s time for City Government to Make THIS GO AWAY.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?