Monday, July 21, 2014

Silicon Valley's gentrification export

Airbnb, the DIY hotel service that was born in the crucible of the Bay Area's dystopan income divides and astronomical rents, is now spreading its way across the nation. Middle-class households now have the privilege to literally rent out their own beds in order to clear escalating rents in the nation's more fashionable/expensive vacation destinations.

Nick Schroeder, who recently took over the editorship of the Portland Phoenix, has a great feature story about the mixed blessings of the Airbnb phenomenon in this week's issue. He describes how Airbnb can help struggling artists make the rent. But he also points out that unaffordable rents are mainly the product of Portland's (or New York's, or San Francisco's) housing shortages — a problem that Airbnb is only making worse, as landlords convert erstwhile apartments where families used to live into informal, unlicensed hotels for well-heeled vacationers.

Meanwhile, in Next City, a possible solution is brewing in the other Portland, where they're considering an ordinance that would require the licensure and taxation of Airbnb rentals, with tax revenues going towards affordable housing funds.

Such a policy could, in theory, let struggling renters continue to rent out bedrooms when they need to — while also giving the city the means to ensure that there will be fewer struggling renters in the big picture.