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On Affordable Housing, is Airbnb the Problem or the Solution?

by Lark Turner

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An Airbnb rental in San Francisco

Airbnb, launched as a way for property owners (or renters) to make some money and travelers to save some, has for the last several years been under fire for an unintended consequence: Pricing out renters and threatening affordable housing.

The service has its success to blame for the claim leveled against it. In cities like San Francisco and New York, where rents are already sky-high, Airbnb hosts often don’t live in their properties at all; they’re entrepreneurs, investors or landlords choosing to make more money nightly than monthly. That’s a little different from the vision of a homeowner who rents out their place when they’re on vacation.

Many argue that the lax regulations around Airbnb are causing rents to rise, a claim that’s backed up at least in part by a recent study that showed a slight uptick in rents attributable to the service. Meanwhile, Airbnb claims its users are using the additional funds to help afford their rent.

A recent “Room for Debate” feature in The New York Times debated whether Airbnb’s helping, hampering or not relevant to the affordable housing crisis. Here’s a sample of the arguments (the whole thing is worth a read):

Nicole Gelinas of Manhattan Institute’s City Journal

“A market-rate tenant in New York may find he can make some extra money renting out his pad — until his landlord just finds it’s easier to cut out the middleman. The displaced tenant will have a hard time finding a new apartment when a landlord can rent that apartment out by the night at three times the monthly rate.”

Arun Sundararajan, professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business

“… All of the rooms and units listed on Airbnb could barely house a tenth of the 45,000 new residents San Francisco has added to its population over the last five years.”

Sarah Watson, deputy director of New York’s Citizens Housing and Planning Council

“At the end of the day, the goal of these cities should be to make sure that residential units are not being taken off the market in areas where demand for housing is already far outpacing supply. In those areas, they should focus on allowing and encouraging roommate sharing. Extra housing space is more important for city residents than for tourists.”

Chris Estes, president of the National Housing Conference

“Fundamentally, our rental affordability crisis is a supply problem. We’re simply not building enough rental housing to meet demand, particularly in job centers, and especially for low- and middle-wage workers. Taking rentals off the market only makes a bad situation worse. Whatever your take on the merits of Airbnb as an accommodation service, we should be doing everything we can to add to the rental supply, not subtract from it.”

See other articles related to: the new york times, airbnb

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/on_affordable_housing_is_airbnb_the_problem_or_the_solution/10012

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