Airbnb is politically unpopular in many cities. Opponents of the homesharing service are a mixture of hotel industry lobbyists and local residents who believe they pay higher rents because units that would otherwise be available to them are put on the market for tourists instead.
The well-being of tourists doesn’t really factor much into the political equation because:
- Tourists don’t vote
- The voice you’d normally expect to speak up for tourists – hotels – sees Airbnb as competition for tourist dollars
Undoubtedly it’s true that rents are higher when apartments can be used for more than long-term leases. One approach would be to relax building restrictions, increase supply of rentable units, and bring down price. Another approach is to attack Airbnb. The latter is the dominant approach in some jurisdictions.
New research though shows that it isn’t the poor – least able to bear the burden of increased rents – suffering from Airbnb. According to a paper by Sophie Calder-Wang of Harvard (.pdf) the “increased rent burden falls most heavily on high-income, educated, and white renters, because they prefer housing and location amenities most desirable to tourists.”
What’s more it turns out that the harm to affluent whites in New York benefits “a few enterprising low-income households [which] obtain substantial gains from home-sharing, especially during demand peaks.”
(HT: Marginal Revolution)