Study links Airbnb rentals to increasing neighborhood violence

July 19, 2021

by Christophe Carey

A study by researchers at Northeastern University in Boston suggests that Airbnb ads can lead to more violence in city neighborhoods over time.

The peer-reviewed study, Airbnb and neighborhood crime: The incursion of tourists or the erosion of local social dynamics?, published in an academic journal PLOS ONE, found that rather than causing tourists to increase crime, it was the gradual disruption of community cohesion due to the eviction of locals that led to the increase over time.

Researchers performed a statistical analysis of Airbnb ads and data on different types of crime in Boston from 2011 to 2017.

The team found that the more registrations there were in a given neighborhood, the higher the rates of violence in that neighborhood, but no public social unrest or private conflict.

“Most of what we hear in the news are anecdotal incidents of how things can go wrong with some of these sharing economy platforms,” said Professor Babak Heydari of Northeastern University. Cities today.

“Our article shows that the decision-maker must also pay attention to longer-term effects, such as the deterioration of the sense of belonging of neighborhoods and damage to social capital.

“Designing policies based on these factors can sometimes be more crucial than those based on anecdotes. “

Social fabric

Study co-author Professor Daniel O’Brien added, “What matters is not the tourists Airbnb brings to the neighborhood; instead, Airbnb creates the most transient households possible – digging holes in the social fabric of the community and undermining its natural ability to deter and prevent crime.

The issue of security was highlighted in an article published by Bloomberg Businessweek last month, who claimed the company paid millions of dollars to Airbnb hosts and guests who were victims of serious crime in an attempt to keep details out of public view.

In response to the study’s findings, Airbnb posted a statement on its website saying “[the research] uses an unrepresentative sample within a city to draw general conclusions at the national level; applies the wrong methodology, including wrong regression analysis; and is based on inaccurate data.

He also suggested that the increase in crime seen in the study can be attributed to “many complex issues” and that “serious research to help inform and guide public policy work” was needed.

Increased control

At a broader political level, Airbnb’s presence has come under increased scrutiny in cities over the past five years, particularly in Europe, where policymakers have struggled to contain a proliferation of short-term real estate rentals in city centers – lack of data to impose limits on rental days or the number of units in a building for seasonal rental use.

But soaring rents and the lack of availability in the private rental sector for local residents have led to an increasingly proactive approach by cities.

Earlier this month, a Paris court fined Airbnb € 8.08 million ($ 9.6 million) after the company failed to comply with local regulations relating to the listing of apartments on the platform.

In September, Airbnb launched City Portal, which it called the “first of its kind” for governments and tourism organizations. The tool aims to provide cities with better insight into rentals and compliance, strengthen security and improve communication.

Image: Ivan Radic

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