Airbnb and housing

This morning, you might have seen a story on Airbnb and housing prices in Marfa, Texas, and beyond. We strongly believe that Airbnb makes communities more affordable and we know it has already helped families stay in the home and community they know and love.

First, let’s start with some context. As readers of this blog know, Airbnb has more than 500,000 listings around the world. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Marfa this evening, there are a total of five options available.  In the six year history of Airbnb, only 17 properties have ever been booked in Marfa. So it’s difficult to argue that Airbnb is having any impact on the housing market in this community.

But many have asked an interesting question about whether home-sharing has an effect on housing prices in communities where more people share their homes. We believe home-sharing makes it possible for more people to pay their bills and stay in their own homes. When Airbnb first got started, we heard from hosts who told us how sharing helped them pay their bills and avoid foreclosure or eviction.

Then, we started doing some research and the data shows that people depend on Airbnb to help pay their bills. We conducted a series of studies in cities around the world. Here are just a few of the key data points:

  • 56% of Airbnb hosts in San Francisco said they use their Airbnb income to help pay their mortgage or rent.
  • 46% of Airbnb hosts in Paris said they use income for essential living expenses such as rent and mortgage payments.
  • 87% of Airbnb hosts in New York share only the home in which they live. And 62% of Airbnb hosts said Airbnb helped them stay in their homes.

The sharing economy is relatively new, so there isn’t much academic research on this question, but noted UC Berkeley Professor and housing expert Ken Rosen conducted a detailed study for us and asked whether home-sharing is responsible for rising rents in San Francisco. Here’s what he wrote:

In cities like San Francisco, the cost of a home or an apartment is never far from anyone’s mind and there is no shortage of theories about why rents continue to rise. One of the latest theories posits that the “sharing economy” and short-term rentals are to blame for high rents. But not only is there no evidence to suggest that short-term rentals are making homes less affordable, our research and analysis indicate that home sharing has the potential to make urban housing more affordable for more families.

Rosen’s work also examined whether some people would stop renting their apartments to permanent residents and start sharing them only on Airbnb. Here’s what he found:

Although there have been media reports of renters and landlords benefiting financially from converting traditional apartments to dedicated short-term rentals, we believe this represents isolated cases of individuals and not the market as a whole.

Data shows that most Airbnb hosts occasionally share only the home in which they live and use the money they earn to help make ends meet. That makes home-sharing an important lifeline that helps families around the world afford to live in the city they love.