Buying a home to rent it out through Airbnb is a bit snobby. And also, it’s a scam.
Dear Sundog, the house next to mine was rented to students from college and other dirtbags for years. In the summer of this year, the owner removed them and sold them to a Californian who converted the property to an Airbnb. Does this violate the law? Do I have to be able to report them? –Victim of Real Estate Boom Outfall
Dear Outfall: As with many other websites, Airbnb promised opportunities for small-sized businesses simply by connecting buyers and sellers in ways previously unimagined. And it was a success. A few years ago, Sundog and Ladydog rented a flat in Istanbul with a cobblestone hill. The neighbors on the third floor dropped their coins into an untied basket to a baker who stuffed the basket with pastry and bread. It was so charming! We wouldn’t have ventured into that section of town if we booked a room at one of those tens of thousands of shabby, expensive tourist trap hotels. We had a wonderful time, and our host was very well-paid in U.S. dollars. Everyone wins, did they not?
After a while, the ethical implications of our trip to the Caribbean are now murky.
In the same way that Tinder gives the possibility of stalkers, Instagram cultivates hustlers; Facebook spreads lies in ways that would have filled Goebbels in envy. Twitter is Putin’s personal media outlet to help win this New Cold War, so do Airbnb and VRBO created new ways to allow predators to ruin the lives of ordinary people.
The victim of Amazon’s popularity could be your local indie store. The winner of the streaming revolution could be that hip record store down in the same street; the residues left behind by Airbnb’s success may not be as apparent. Sundog doesn’t shed a tear for hotel chains, many of which are bland rebrands for those soulless, sterile cubicles operated by the four big players: Wyndham, Marriott, Hilton, Holiday Inn. Instead, the collateral effect from the influx of short-term rentals via Airbnb and VRBO is the charming communities in once-affordable cities. We’re not talking about ski resorts that would have never existed if not because of the pocket money of the wealthy, but real cities populated by normal non-trust fund people who have jobs.
In the wake of historically low rates of interest, the U.S. housing market has increased 17 percent over the last year, which is the most dramatic increase in the last year since the Zillow website began tracking these data in the year 1996. Cities located in the West have seen a jump that is much higher and higher: Boise (46 percent), Austin (42 percent), Kalispell (41 percent), Bend (39 percent), Missoula (35 percent), Phoenix (32 percent), Spokane (31 percent), Salt Lake City (28 percent), Tucson (28 percent), Reno (28 percent). This is partly due to the Zoom Boom, which has led to the pandemic opening up millions of people who are wealthy from coastal areas to work from home. This is also fueled by the speculators who place bids over the market price for homes with no intention of living there. Instead, they’re looking to build an unintentional hotel in a residential property block.
To randomly pluck one town from this list, let’s look at Missoula, Montana, where for decades residents stoically suffered long, gloomy winters and short, smoky summers, an ordeal eased or exacerbated–depending on your politics–by gobsmacking property taxes that build such virtue indicators as traffic roundabouts, pedestrian bridges, and ice-covered bike lanes. Rent was affordable, and residents endured the frigid sleet in huddles near the roaring furnaces of gingerbread homes before the war, cutting local elk steaks with a shot and drinking strong beers.
Today, in the wake of the introduction of the Boom Boomers, the capitalist lords serve cauliflower in chimichurri and buttermilk microtacos as well as Houseplant Jungle Tropikolsch that has notes of passionfruit, mango, and Guava. The houses that cost $350,000 in January 2020 are now sold for $500,000. Workers are moving to abandoned Mill towns or Superfund-related sites. The vacancy rate for rental properties is lower than 1 percent. Planners believe that 3 percent of houses are short-term rentals with such names as « Williamsburg, Missoula » and « BoHo Basement. »
What exactly do these visitors visit in a city infamous for its air pollution and sexual assault on college dates? In search of Airbnb feedback, Sundog discovered at least one guest raving about deer grazing along the streets. This means that people have lots of money and are stuck and mad after two years in solitary being in a confined space that they’re ready to throw it all away when they travel to Montana to observe insects in the garden graze on the pavement.
There is a variety of Airbnb ownership with its ethical issues. The least disruptive to a community is the owner who leases out their own house, a spare bedroom, or mother-in-law unit. This is in line with its spirit. The original purpose of helping people « travel like a local » is to provide tourists with the opportunity to experience a homestay that is not as commercial and generate income for cash-strapped owners of homes.
The second kind is the one who leases their entire house and finds another place to stay after guests arrive. Perhaps they have a second home or travel extensively. These could lead to ignorant people wandering around the streets but don’t alter the real estate market. The property is in the hands of the same owner, and there’s a benefit of having it occupied when they’re not there.
The third is the most insidious one: the speculator who purchases an entire house to transform it into a rental for the night. Websites abound with information on how easy this is using easy-to-understand steps such as « pick an attractive location » and « analyze available properties, » without mentioning things like finding out who lives there or how to preserve the qualities that make the street attractive in the first location. This strategy is not morally based, and the adage of pushers and pimps comes to mind: purchase for a nickel, then sell for the price of a dime. A business that makes money for the owner and degrades the commons is unmoral.
For the most part, ordinary citizens have an option for combating sharks who are naive and want to make a fortune by defiling the lifeblood of the city and the state. It is not the case that even the most inflexible Ayn Rand followers devote a lot of energy to their rights to run an establishment in their basement or run a sexual performance within their garage. Zoning laws ban the practice. Innovative cities such as Hermosa Beach, California, were able to pass laws banning short-term rentals back in 2016. The city has since permitted rentals in commercial areas to landlords who have the required business license. In addition, several larger cities have passed similar laws to stop investors. Los Angeles now requires owners to show that their home is their primary home of theirs. It also restricts rental nights to 120 per year and requires property owners to complete a formal course that is only slightly easier than getting an entry visa for tourists in North Korea.
The more complex an act is and the more complicated it will be to implement. Here’s the place you can help Outfall. If someone in your neighborhood has a hotel operating illegally, Consider that it is your duty as a citizen to kick their business to city officials. It’s not a good idea to tattle. It’s uncomfortable. Yet Airbnb and VRBO have developed a system so efficient that governments have been left in the dark in their attempts to save affordable communities, and your actions are the most effective solution.
It could be that your city has not taken any measures to safeguard residents from AirBnBastards. There is no law infringed in this instance, and there’s no reason to complain. The task of protecting your community isn’t just a one-time call but an extensive campaign. First, you’ll have to follow the usual avenues of pressure on city councilors, mayors, and county commissioners, to pass laws.
Housing affordability isn’t included in any of the sacred documents, like the Constitution and the Magna Carta, the Bible. If communities believe that they are entitled to it, we are entitled to it. We’ll have to fight.