Houses should be homes, not gold mines


But that exactly what they become on opaque digital platforms.

Houses should be homes, not gold mines /img/airbnb-sucks.jpg

Have you seen the open warning and plea to Airbnb owners to do the right thing before pitchforks come?

The thesis is extremely simple, and everybody should already know it. Renting out spare rooms, attics, basements, and backyards in owner-occupied properties is not a problem. The problem is:

  • “when an investor outbids a family for a second property and turns it into a full-time Airbnb”
  • “Or worse, when a holiday rental company does so. Or worse, when a highly-leveraged hedge fund buys a swath of holiday rental companies”
  • “Or worse…” (continues here)

The problem, that is, is a business model that by definition forces Airbnb to do whatever it can to “take hundreds of millions of houses away from real families in the decades ahead”.

Houses should be homes, not gold mines /img/shrek-and-donkey.jpg

To avoid that, Airbnb should reboot itself in many ways, including, but not limited to:

  • be much more transparent on who owns the homes, or rooms
  • only list hosts that are owner-occupiers
  • limit rentable nights to 14/year
  • make actual profit for a change, by building clerkless hotels

On one hand, those proposals remind me of Shrek naively asking Donkey to just not be himself, even for just five minutes.

But it is true, and it is wrong for everybody to ignore it, that there is an unprecedented “charge in turning a human necessity into a tradeable commodity” that pushes actual housing “beyond all affordable values” in too many places, and forces real societal contributors like, you know, the ones who kept all the rest of us afloat during the pandemic:

Houses should be homes, not gold mines /img/supermarkets-clerks-italy-20200318.jpg

to relocate further away from their places of work.

What should WE do about this?

The article also lists solutions. Some of them are only apply to the USA, at least in their present form, but there are at least two that are valid worldwide:

  • contact the author to translate the open letter in other languages
  • get political, that is “Lobby your city councilors, county clerks, state representatives, and Congresspeople to ban all commercial activity and investment in residential real estate”

Image sources: Shrek yelling at Donkey and mix of image search results for “Airbnb sucks”

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