Washington Law Review

Article

Community Consequences of Airbnb

December 20, 2019 | 94 Wash. L. Rev. 1577

Abstract: Short-term rental accommodations account for more than 20% of the United States lodging market, with annual sales now greater than those of nearly all legacy hotel brands. The rise of companies like Airbnb has created a booming market that provides affordable short-term rentals for travelers and new income for those with an extra couch, spare room, or even an unused home. However, while individual hosts and guests may benefit economically, the use of short-term rentals produces significant consequences for the surrounding community. Airbnb proliferation causes fewer affordable housing options, higher average asking rents, and erosion of neighborhood social capital. Due to discrimination among users on Airbnb’s platform, many of the benefits of short-term rental accommodations accrue to white hosts and guests, locking communities of color out of potential income and equity streams. These issues raise a question at the core of property law: which stick in the bundle is implicated by a short-term rental accommodation?

Current regulations attempt to walk the line between protecting property rights and mitigating externalities created by short-term rental accommodations and borne by the local community. In doing so, the law fails to adequately address consequences resulting from the vast increase in short-term rental accommodations. This Article assesses the benefits and costs of short-term rental accommodations and analyzes how current statutory approaches amplify or diminish these effects. After examining the legal, economic, and social interests of multiple short-term rental accommodation stakeholders, including hosts, guests, the local community, and platform operators, it argues that current policies are fragmented, inconsistently applied, and ineffective. Instead, the law must be reformed to better secure access to affordable housing stock, prevent “hotelization” of residential neighborhoods, create meaningful opportunities for diverse users to share economic gains, and eliminate pathways to discriminate on homesharing platforms like Airbnb.

Download Full Article