Are short-term rental businesses harming neighborhoods and housing markets? This nonprofit co-op is looking to turn tourist trends into community assets.
In recent years, Airbnb and its competitors have been accused of making housing unaffordable, of draining homes from the long-term rental market, and of eviscerating the character of popular neighborhoods through displacement and overexploitation. In an era punctuated by the effects of a housing shortage, it can seem that vacation rentals stand at odds with the solutions cities and residents are searching for.
But does the business of short-stay rentals have to be so ethically fraught? An ambitious project based in Amsterdam says no.
It’s called Fairbnb, and it’s trying to refashion the home-sharing model so that short-stay apartment rentals can enrich the amenities and housing choices of the communities that host them.
“For a long time, the social impact of traveling was rarely taken into consideration—because at first with vacation apartments, people didn’t feel it,” Sito Veracruz, a co-founder of Fairbnb, tells CityLab. “We are now reckoning with the damaging impact of tourism on communities, not just because of the industry’s growth, but because of its huge expansion into residential areas.”
The project, if successful, could provide a sustainable alternative in a sector where, as Fairbnb’s own promotional material notes, “the promise of ‘home-sharing’ has turned into ‘home-stripping.’”
Fairbnb has been building this alternative for three years now. It already has co-op members in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Lithuania, and has spent time consulting with communities in cities across Europe, including Venice, Bologna, and Barcelona.
While it is only just preparing to accept registrations from hosts, its community-building exercises have attracted more than 700 people who are ready to list their homes. As its launch date nears, Fairbnb is now going through a crowdfunding push, mainly to fast-track technology development, such as a mobile counterpart to its upcoming online site.
Fairbnb’s model diverges from the standard model in several key ways. Like other home-share sites, it plans to levy a commission on bookings (in Fairbnb’s case, of 15 percent, which is broadly similar to Airbnb). Half of this money would be fed back into the local community where a unit is rented out.
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