Jackie Havard is a native Washingtonian. “I grew up here, right by the Eastern Market in Capitol Hill,” she explained. “I’ve been in this neighborhood, Hill East, for about ten years now.” Jackie owns a historic row house that used to be her primary residence. Now, it’s her primary investment. As her family grew, Jackie and her husband, who works for the government, were able to save up enough to buy a slightly bigger place a few blocks away. Now they list the row house on Airbnb. “This property is all we’ve got,” she noted. “We don’t have other extra income or savings.”
For much of Jackie’s life, she’s been battling Crohn’s Disease, which requires medical treatments often not covered, or only partially covered by insurance. “I have to have regular iron infusions which insurance only pays for partially,” she explained. “I have been from doctor to doctor to doctor. I finally found a doctor I like and she doesn’t take my insurance. So much is paid for out of pocket. Airbnb is helping us get by.”
Jackie and her husband had long-term renters for a while, but when the tenants moved, they were unable to find new renters. Months went by with the house empty. That’s when they tried using Airbnb and it’s been working out in more ways than one. Beyond the extra income, Jackie is really enjoying being a host. “I really love being an ambassador to the city,” she said. “Everybody that I’ve hosted has come to the city with a sense of wonder and enthusiasm. They are thrilled to be able to experience D.C. through this neighborhood instead of through a hotel downtown. People like traveling like this. They’re getting the local experience.”
“Airbnb is really good for D.C. and its relationship with the world. We should be opening our doors, not shutting them. It’s good for the neighborhoods, it’s good for the city, and it’s good for the property owners.”
Hosting, as it turns out, is a family affair. “My parents rent out my grandmother’s old house on Airbnb. They’re in their 80’s. They’ve been doing it for about a year. I handle the computer part of it and they get the place ready for guests,” she explained. “It means so much to my mom to have her mother’s house. And my dad loves to fix the garden.”
Despite all the positive benefits home sharing brings to Jackie’s family and their neighborhood, it could all be shut down should D.C. Council vote to pass a hotel-backed bill, which would prohibit short-term rentals outside of primary residences.
“There are a lot of people like me. I have not really come across anyone who thinks an additional unit is a bad idea. Real estate is a typical way for the middle class to pull themselves up in America. I was able to by the skin of my teeth hold onto an old property. This feels like a war on the middle class.”
As the popularity of short-term rentals continues to rise, anti-home sharing enthusiasts have attempted to oversimplify a complex issue — the affordable housing crisis in D.C. — by assigning blame to platforms like Airbnb. But Jackie sees the forest through the trees. “Shutting down Airbnb is not affordable housing policy,” Jackie said. “I find the narrative that’s been put forth by the hotel industry to be false and nothing but fear mongering. In this day and age, I find it to be completely irresponsible. We need to be better than that. D.C. is a liberal, progressive city. We need to act like one.”