How Your Vacation Choice Contributes to the Housing Crisis
Posted on June 29, 2018
Hotel vs. VRBO/Airbnb, just two options, right? I’m more of a hotel guy unless I’m traveling with a larger group. Then I check out VRBO/Airbnb in hopes to save a little money and enjoy a home feel with my friends or family. I admit, until recently, I have not given this choice a second thought.
On my trip to Hawai’i, last week this all changed. Honolulu, like many great cities, is experiencing a housing crisis. Learning about their crisis, many of the same factors such as lack of affordable housing, high rent/ownership prices, and a growing population all contributed. Then I heard a new one, vacation rentals. I was lucky enough to train in a room with windows for walls with the skyline of Honolulu in full view with its high-rises and cranes building new ones.
During a break, I was speaking with someone from the island and talking about the housing and all the building. He informed me that while thousands of new apartments were going up, few Hawaiians could afford them as many were being bought up as investment properties. These new properties and many traditional monthly rentals were no longer available for residents as they were now on sites like VRBO and Airbnb for nightly/weekly vacation rentals.
Besides taking thousands of units off the market, by lowering the supply of housing, VRBO and Airbnb are driving up the prices of existing housing stock making it nearly impossible for low-income workers to afford to live close the to the hotels and resorts in which many worked. Doing a little more research, I found this is happening all over the country, including in Colorado. Now people can rent these units out at much higher rates than the traditional monthly rentals.
Many governments and communities already struggling to offer affordable housing find themselves unable to support the very workers who staff the hotels, ski resorts, restaurants, stores, and coffee shops which make these destinations attractive along with arts and nature. I never saw my choice of lodging as impacting the housing situation in the communities I visit. However, between the jobs a hotel stay supports and the fact I’m not contributing skyrocketing rent or home prices, I’m starting to see my lodging decisions in a whole different light.
I think it’s horrible how housing is so expensive. We will become a third world country with no middle class.
That is a great question. What happens to a society that does not allow its workers to live in proximity to their work? Does not seem sustainable!
Thanks so much for highlighting this issue. AirBNB has destroyed a large portion of affordable housing in Portland as well. This is also a huge player in gentrification. Pushing low-income people of color out of an up and coming neighborhood, then filling it with AirBNBs. They call this the sharing economy? Think about it. You can rent a unit to a tenant, or rent it on AirBNB and make the same in maybe 10-15 days.
Thanks Joel. Per your response and others, I convinced we need to start educating everyone we can on this issue. It seems like the AirBNB situation could still work but if I ever use these services again I would need to find out somehow whether I’m renting a house that someone lives and just rents out occasionally or if it exclusively a rental (in which case I will not book). This situation seems like something we could impact with a little advocacy.