The fundamental challenge for cities is to be a welcoming environment for the people who live there – one that nurtures and makes them work. Since the economic stagnation, which has led a number of countries to a severe crisis, and as there has been little economic security, cities lost this welcoming environment. Airbnb, co- founded by Brian Chesky, is a home sharing initiative, which partly came up as a response to this. Under the sound title of sharing economy, it – by a click of a mouse – enables anyone to become an entrepreneur and make a new income in 60 seconds. However, sharing economy, usually illustrated by Uber and Airbnb, is believed to have an ambiguous effect on cities.
To date, tens of millions travellers have chosen Airbnb for their temporary accommodation in a foreign city. It is an easy and convenient way, which provides the newcomer with an opportunity to experience places not as tourist, but as local. That is why Airbnb supporters have advocated that sharing home practices have tremendous positive social impact – it increases the circle of your friends. Furthermore, it has been proven that slightly more than half of Airbnb hosts are low or moderate income families, Airbnb guests tend to stay longer than regular hotel guests, and they usually use services in the local neighbourhoods. So, it supports residents and local businesses, encourages cultural exchange and this results in accumulating positive impact for local economies across the world. Thus, from Amsterdam, New York, Paris, Montreal, Budapest or Moscow to little towns in a countryside there hardly is a place without home-sharing practices. On the other hand, as Airbnb professionalises its effects multiply and the concern regarding the real ‘Airbnb effect’ becomes ever more present. Today multiple sources announce that Airbnb, which still has little consistent regulation, should be held accountable for growing property prices and community displacement – rather the opposite to the claims by Airbnb supporters. Not only the rise of property and gentrification, though, but also the rise of retailers using the service for company’s benefit, the rise of tourist rates in major cities count for the evidence in support for the negative ‘Airbnb effect’.
Under the Gentrified World Section this time the Guardian turns to Amsterdam where the question of Airbnb started disturbing local communities. Amsterdam, with a population of only 800 thousand, is the world’s most multicultural city, which, due to its appealing character, witnesses a yearly influx of about 5mln temporary guests. Thus far, with a well-developed tourism policies, this has not been an issue. To add, due to its limited size the housing shortage, rise of property value and even gentrification have been troubling the city even before ‘Airbnb affect’. That’s why city council together with researchers are quite hesitant in labelling Airbnb fully responsible for contemporary urban issues. However, it is evident that Airbnb adds up to this – the increase in a new available temporary housing on Airbnb platform has not only contributed to lower permanent housing affordability but also to an alarming mass-tourism rate – something that even Amsterdam is not ready to handle.
“It [Airbnb] drives up real estate prices that are already searing in Amsterdam. Neighbourhood business that creates ties between residents is replaced by businesses that only focus on tourists. Bike rental companies replace local grocery shops. And apartments that are continuously rented out to tourists are lost to people who want to actually live here,” the Guardian
The council welcomed it [Airbnb] at first because it meant an upgrading of the city. But now that it continues, you see the rise of very unilateral neighbourhoods. Families with children are leaving this city because they can’t afford to live in the good areas” Peter Boelhouwer, professor of housing systems at the University of Technology in Delft
Additionally, in Amsterdam Airbnb has become a threat to tourism as we know it. The unregulated tourism does not only contribute to the pain in local residents’ heads due to the noisy and partying tourists but it also destroys the unique atmosphere of the local culture.
“Overcrowding in key destinations is becoming a pressing issue. Without controls, we know tourism can kill tourism.” Mark Tanzer, chief executive Association of British Travel Agents
Fairbnb – Dutch alternative preserving the local culture
Amsterdam is known to be a leader in adopting new innovative practices. Despite focusing on being green and smart, Amsterdam is one of the strongest Airbnb partners also. Having been aware of Airbnb effect the city has respectively taken certain measures. Two years ago Amsterdam was the first to sign a multinational agreement with Airbnb. This agreement addressed issues like: Airbnb levying and handing over tourist taxes to the city, removing addresses where the council has intervened because of the resident’s complaints and setting some rules, such as, no longer than 60 days per year stay to not more than four guests at a time. Although, the actual enforcement of the agreement was more difficult than planned, and council currently focus on penalising any misconduct of the agreement. Furthermore, city’s innovators are trying to search for the right balance between visitors-residents life in a city experiecnce and even when the issue of liveability vs. mass-tourism does not have a clear answer yet, the Dutch alternatives present possibilities for setting new priorities for Airbnb. That’s why while steps are being taken to address the ‘Airbnb effect’ on the housing market, a new initiative has been taking shape: FairBnB – the alternative to work on the local, fair, non-extractive and collaborative economy.
“We would like to encourage visitors to stay in areas where they are not a disturbance, but could add something to the neighbourhood,” tells Sito Veracruz, co-founder of Fairbnb
Fairbnb confronts the same challenge for cities – to be a welcoming environment for the people who live there. It acts as a short-stay rental platform, but which is beneficial to the city and its inhabitants. This ‘upgraded’ Airbnb version only includes hosts who are registered with the council and neighbours who are involved in the management of the platform. The main questions raised by Fairbnb supporters are: ‘How these activities could be managed to be beneficial to local initiatives and be kept from extracting values only for investors and speculators? How could they be managed so that visitors are encouraged to stay in those areas where they are not a disturbance, but beneficial to the neighbourhood?’