AirBnB claims to be the star of the “sharing economy,” offering accommodations across budgets and boundaries, but the company seems to have slowly priced the local dwellings beyond the reach of the local population.
The corporate startup’s slogan reads “belong anywhere,” and its website reiterates the implied meaning on numerous occasions. Though it is undoubtedly a noble sentiment, the ground reality seems to have inspired a capitalist mindset. San Francisco, the company’s hometown, now has become quite expensive for those looking to rent places on a long-term basis.
More often than not, it is nearly impossible to find a dwelling since the homeowner is looking to rent out the place on a short-term basis and make good money, rather than rent it out for a relatively meager sum and keep the place inaccessible or “off the market” for those looking to stay for a short duration and can afford to pay well. There have even been cases of San Francisco landlords evicting tenants in order to list their rooms on AirBnB.
Interestingly, AirBnB does offer listings at prices that even those on a shoestring budget might be able to afford if only for a few nights. However, the cheapest rooms in San Francisco’s SoMa district are advertised not as affordable lodging, but as “hacker homes” and “startup houses” targeting a very specifically-implied demographic.
AirBnB seems to have indirectly created an unmistakable disparity, commonly referred to as income inequality. While AirBnB’s motto suggests that literally anyone can find shelter among its thousands of listings, it is the low-income locals who are finding it most difficult, or at the least the company is steadily discouraging them to look for homes on a long-term basis.
AirBnB may have become an exceptionally successful startup within a short duration and doled out some cash just to spread goodwill, but it seems the company has taken away affordable accommodation from those who need it the most.
In its own defense, the company stated, “Our employees volunteer regularly with non-profit organisations throughout the city, and we were particularly proud to join with the Mayor’s office of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement (HOPE) last year to donate funding and volunteer hours to provide needed resources for a new housing centre for homeless veterans.”
With income inequality of San Francisco rivalling that of Rawanda, perhaps AirBnB has fuelled the highest housing prices in the nation, putting even the most basic accommodation far out of reach for those living in poverty.
[Image Credit | Justin Lane/EPA]