I’m a pretty staunch supporter of Airbnb. I like the idea that homes typically left vacant can be occupied by travellers. I also like the idea that you can feel more at home in a city where you’re a tourist.
But, the recent call from Airbnb for federal dollars is tone deaf in their long-term fight for something good, in the name of exactly what makes them pernicious.
For years, Airbnb has been arguing that they simply provide a way for renters and homeowners to subsidize their housing costs, generally when they’re away or perhaps have a spare room, insisting that they’re emphatically not putting a strain on an already tight housing market.
Everyone knew that wasn’t quite true but I, for one, found those problematic effects palatable in the interest of what I saw as something good — in an increasingly expensive and vacant housing landscape, a method for ensuring our most environmentally-efficient spaces in densely populated areas are flexibly occupied.
Of course, there were de facto unlicensed hoteliers operating on the platform, but their mission was worthwhile enough in the long-term to make the short-term effects tolerable.
However, their recent call for federal aid whistles a very different tune. It’s asking for federal funding primarily for those illegal hoteliers at a time when the economy is struggling on essentially every front.
The very beauty of Airbnb is that they can be a massive travel player without owning any travel assets. That should make them the most flexible, and least too-big-to-fail travel company, in existence.
In the midst of a global health crisis, Airbnb’s call for federal aid is one of the most audacious pleas I’ve ever heard.