Airbnb riots in small American towns
Kaitlin had been had been living in the Village of Oak Creek for over two years when she received the notice. It was June 2022, and her landlord had decided to raise the rent on her three-bedroom house from $800 to $3,000, a 36% increase. For Kaitlin, who had been living alone since her sons left, the cost of the stay was prohibitive. She had poured hard-earned money into improving the property, treating lingering clay stains that desert monsoons washed away from the surrounding red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. Kaitlin, who requested anonymity to protect her pending rental applications, was upset to leave the property she had made her own. But she was not alone. Across Sedona, rental prices were skyrocketing and a new sort of Airbnb gold rush was to blame.
For years, short-term rental companies like Airbnb have torn cities apart. Some, like Mexico City, we embrace you the rental platform to attract tourists and digital nomads. Others, like Amsterdam and London, have decided to limit or ban the platform, citing overtourism concerns; pressures on housing supply; Where in the case of Torontothe rise of Airbnb “ghost hotels”.
Three years into the pandemic, with flexible working the new normal for many and urban rental supply taking longer to rebound, short-term rental entrepreneurs have shifted from big cities to towns and cities. tourist-friendly resort destinations. And Sedona, a small town nestled between dramatic purple rock formations in central Arizona, is among the hardest hit. “Everybody wanted to go into those markets,” says Jamie Lane, vice president of research at AirDNA, a short-term rental analytics firm. And with the flood of foreigners arriving, local residents like Kaitlin are being evicted.
Sedona banned short-term rentals in 1995. But in 2017, an Arizona state law, SB1350, blocked those restrictions. Legislators introduced the law like a hug of the new sharing economy and a boon for Arizonans looking to earn some extra cash by renting out their spare rooms. But when the law was passed, investors flooded the market. More than 15% of available homes in Sedona are now listed on short-term rental sites like Airbnb or Vrbo, according to a 2021 study by local firm Elliott Packer & Co. As in many cities around the world, housing prices in Sedona have soared during the pandemic: the median price of a single-family home has risen 64% over a two-year period. years, from October 2020 to 2022. People living without a car have become increasingly common, says Shannon Boone, housing manager for the City of Sedona. Camping on the outskirts of town as a way of life – not for holidays – is damaging the pristine national forest that surrounds it.
Tourists flock to Sedona for its breathtaking vistas and walking trails, and the city has made a name for itself as the spiritual heart of the new age of the American West. Along its main street, healing centers and crystal shops are nestled between bars and restaurants. “Tourism will always be our economic engine, whether we like it or not,” says Sandy Moriarty, the former mayor of Sedona. But these tourists are increasingly strangling the life of a city that depends on them for its survival.
“Airbnb has allowed tourism here to double, which means more labor is needed, and at the same time has reduced the number of available homes,” Boone says. It’s a brutal combination. More tourists equals more money and more job opportunities in Sedona’s hospitality and entertainment industries. But with the housing shortage, everyone ends up competing for the same small pool of rental properties. And in Sedona, more and more of those rentals are now Airbnbs.