.Regulate Airbnb

Americans have been on a vacation binge since the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. In particular, the vacation rental company Airbnb is thriving. Late last year, the company posted its highest-ever profits.

Meanwhile, cities are seeing rising rents, unaffordable home prices and increased homelessness. Authorities are now linking these crises partly to Airbnb—and some are now passing strict regulations.

Just as companies like Uber were once touted as a way for working people with cars to earn a little extra spending cash, Airbnb offered the promise of supplementary income for those with an extra room or converted garage.

I’ve rented several Airbnb homes over the 15 years since the company was founded. In the early years, staying in other people’s houses felt like an act of rebellion against corporate hotel chains. The privacy, convenience and often lower cost enabled tourists with tighter budgets to enjoy family vacations that otherwise might have been unavailable.

Now, however, the market is increasingly dominated by a small number of corporate “hosts” and professional property managers—wealthy elites and corporate entities that scoop up large numbers of properties and turn big profits by renting them out to travelers. And that’s driving up housing costs for everyone.

While cheaper vacation stays are certainly desirable for those of us who love to travel, vacationing is a privilege in the U.S. More than a third of Americans, a 2023 survey found, are unlikely to take a summer vacation. And of those, more than half say they simply can’t afford it.

A 2019 Economic Policy Institute study pointed out that “Airbnb might, as claimed, suppress the growth of travel accommodation costs, but these costs are not a first-order problem for American families.” What is a first-order problem is affordable housing.

While regulating Airbnb will not mitigate all economic injustices facing Americans, it certainly will move the needle in the right direction.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host of ‘Rising Up With Sonali,’ a television and radio show on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations.


  1. AirBnB also offers utterly bogus customer support–unless you are a renter–and sketchy insurance. In 2019, we had a bad experience with an AirBnB rental in Como, Italy. Accommodation description–with sweltering heat in a second floor apartment–promised fans. They were broken. Basic utensils and cooking implements were missing, no soap in the bathroom. One partly used roll of TP for 4 day/five night stay with two people. AirBnB’s “assistance”: try to work it out with your host. The “host” was a realty company and could care less. Last fall, less than 24 hours past the deadline to cancel, my wife took a bad fall and was unable to walk for the next several months, plus healing up from bruises and stitches. We had taken the insurance AirBnB offers. We asked the hosts to refund. They “agreed”, exercising AirBnB’s option for the host by keeping $236 and returning $36 (this assures that AirBnB gets is percentage). I had to get the California Consumer Affairs Division to open an investigation in order to get the $236 four months after the accident. These are just a couple of the issues we’ve had with AirBnB. Our view is that AirBnB needs more than regulation. They should not be allowed to be in business.

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    • Note: when I said “renter” at the beginning I meant “host.”

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  2. Since about 2000, members of the Sonoma County Housing Group, including David Grabill and myself, have addressed the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on the specific deleterious impacts associated with the conversion of dwelling units, built and zoned for long-term occupancy by “residents,” into commercial businesses servicing the short-term desires of tourists. Our warnings were mocked, ridiculed, ignored. David Rabbitt might recall those days as he is the sole remaining member of the board voting to adopt the Vacation Rental Ordinance that has torn into the fabric of our communities ever since. Why I remember one public hearing in which another still-serving Supervisor insisted that “residential” means “commercial.” The winners: Real estate industry folks and the investor class they serve as well as the County – oh yes, and the scum coming to a neighborhood near you to party their brains out at the expense of your peace and quiet. It has to be said that Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) collected from those legal vacation rentals was a welcome relief, shoring up County coffers when property tax revenue declined along with housing prices. And so it goes today. Supervisors Gorin and Hopkins are the standouts who pushed to enact ordinances that now protect many of the most devastated communities. And so we are gradually healing as the converted homes are sold and are no longer able to be legally used for short-term tourist lodging. But the damage is real: Schools closed, volunteers for community events gone, trust in local government …. To learn more about the damage done around the globe by these short-term investors, please visit Facebook and search for “Preserve Sonoma County Neighborhoods.”

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