“The Right to Housing, Not Vacation Homes”

Yves here. I am preserving the original “Economy for All” headline, since it reflects some of what is wrong with this piece. The problem, of course, is not vacation housing (outside major metro areas, it is not uncommon for middle-ish income people to own modest cabins in the boonies) but AirBnB allowing homeowners and renters to run unlicensed hotels. And in at least some cities, that means undermining unionized hotel workers.

Par for the course, I find this author telling howlers to justify her past use of AirBnB. Oh, going to hotels was dangerous during pre-vaccine Covid. Huh? Yours truly was one of the few traveling then due to needing to get treatment and eventually surgery for bum hips, where I (correctly) did not trust local options and so was flying more often than I liked to NYC. Hotels were deserted then and even with reduced schedules, planes were seriously undersold. That means the dangerous part of travel was the plane and airport, not the hotel.

By Sonali Kolhatkar, an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her most recent book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization. Produced by Economy for All a project of the Independent Media Institute

Americans have been on a vacation binge since the easing of COVID-19 lockdowns, traveling for leisure in record numbers, and generating a major boom for the tourism industry. The vacation rental company Airbnb in particular, built on the euphemistic-sounding idea of a “sharing economy,” is thriving. In the third quarter of 2023, the company posted its highest-ever profits on record.

But increasingly, cities are seeing rising rents, unaffordable home prices, and increased homelessness. Authorities are linking such housing-related crises in part to Airbnb, and are passing strict regulations.

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 was a sort of subversive act of rebellion against corporate hotel chains. During the most terrifying pre-vaccine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, short-term home rentals felt significantly safer than hotels, amid fears of the deadly airborne virus spreading among unmasked crowds in elevators and hotel lobbies. The privacy, convenience, and lower cost often enabled tourists with tighter budgets to enjoy family vacations with members of their chosen pandemic pods.

But, while Airbnb rentals may offer some financial respite for low-budget vacationers, their counterparts in the neighborhoods they visit are often negatively impacted by higher-cost housing prices and rents. What’s more, Airbnb hosts are increasingly professional landlords—wealthy elites and corporate entities that scoop up large numbers of properties and turn big profits by renting them out to travelers.

Even individuals managing a single property are now encouraged to expand vacation rental management into a full-time business. “Becoming an Airbnb property manager can be a fulfilling career path—and you can also make a lot of money with it,” claimed one company specializing in training professional hosts. “It’s a relatively low-risk, low-investment venture that can turn out to be extremely lucrative.”

Indeed, 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. Now, however, the market is being increasingly dominated by a small number of corporate “hosts” and professional property managers.

Airbnb homes are available all over the world but the United States is most deeply affected. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said in late 2023, “[O]ur penetration in the United States is significantly higher than our penetration in many other countries. And we think there’s a huge amount of growth if we could just get Airbnb to even a fraction of the percentage of penetration that we have in the United States.” In other words, the U.S. is the model that Airbnb wants to replicate everywhere else in its quest for profits.

Stephanie Synclair is an appropriate symbol of what Airbnb has wrought in the U.S. The 41-year-old Black mom from Atlanta recently made the news for becoming a home-buyer, not in her own hometown, but in Sicily. In spite of the language and cultural barriers, Synclair purchased a home on the other side of the planet, in part because she found Sicilians to be warm and welcoming, but mostly because of the huge price difference. In spite of having a budget of $450,000—no small sum—Synclair had no luck buying a home in Atlanta, where properties are among the most overpricedin the nation. She now plans to retire in her $62,000 home in Palermo, Sicily.

Atlanta’s housing market is dominated by investors and cash-rich corporations who scoop up practically every home listed at $500,000 or less, many of which are then transformed into Airbnb listings for tourists. Precious Price, an Atlanta-based host, initially saw Airbnb as a pathway to building wealth, particularly for Black entrepreneurs like her who faced racial discrimination from the financial industry. But Price soon realized, according to a profile in the New York Times, that her rental property was part of the housing crisis that her beloved city was experiencing. She has since pivoted to long-term rentals aimed at residents rather than vacationers—an enterprise that is less profitable but more ethical.

Not only does Airbnb fuel housing crises in cities, it does so along racial lines. A 2017 study of New York City by the watchdog group Inside Airbnb concluded that the company’s model fuels racism in the housing market. Analyzing the demographics of rental hosts in the city, Inside Airbnb concluded, among other things, that “[a]cross all 72 predominantly Black New York City neighborhoods, Airbnb hosts are 5 times more likely to be white.” Further, “[t]he loss of housing and neighborhood disruption due to Airbnb is [six] times more likely to affect Black residents.” White New Yorkers have benefitted from renting out housing as hotels, while Black New Yorkers are disproportionately hurt.

To curb such inequities, New York City, which already had strict rules on the books about short-term rentals and subleases, passed a law in 2023 requiring Airbnb to ensure that hosts obtain permission to rent out housing. If it fails to do so, both the host and the company are hit with hefty fines.

The New York Times explained, “In order to collect fees associated with the short-term stays, Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com and other companies must check that a host’s registration application has been approved.” And, “hosts who violate the rules could face fines of up to $5,000 for repeat offenders, and platforms could be fined up to $1,500 for transactions involving illegal rentals.”

It was an admission that the earlier set of rules was simply not being enforced—as we continue to see in cities like Los Angeles—where hosts flout rules with little consequence. But now, at least in New York City, the onus is on the company, as well as the hosts to comply.

While this means potentially higher hotel costs for out-of-town visitors, it could free up rentals for long-term residents. According to the Guardian, this may already be happening, just months after the law went into effect in September: “[T]he city’s rental costs are backing off from record highs, as the vacancy rate increases to a level not seen in three years—good news for folks looking to sign rental leases.”

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, as per a 2023 survey, 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.

And, while regulating Airbnb will not mitigate all economic injustices facing Americans—such as suppressed wages and a lack of government-funded health care—it certainly will move the needle in the right direction.

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  1. VTDigger

    Welcome to Vermont where the Accela corridor vacations. Perpetual housing crisis because of second homes. Airbnb surprisingly not a huge part of the housing stock yet, but give it time. I advocate for mandatory Lease to Own on residential rentals in the state but since most lawmakers are landlords…sigh. Without that it’s just money to landlords to build more rental units. Subsidizing someone’s retirement!

    1. boldweevil

      I live in one of the six towns in Vermont that is entirely above 1,500’ in elevation. We have less than 2% of the county’s population. 54% of our registered voters are 60 and over and 27% are 70 and older. My town is a retirement town of Timex and not Rolex folks. About one half of the houses here are second homes and an increasing number of new builds (few in number) are listed on the application as vacation home and other such euphemisms for short term rental.
      I don’t care about that as much as I do the destruction of the environment caused during these builds. One of the more egregious recent instances happened on a 100 acre parcel that was heavily logged and then sold to an out of towner. It so happens that this entire parcel is smack in an area listed by the Agency of Natural Resources as having “…State Rank: S1: very rare in Vermont, State Protection Status: State-Endangered, Federal Protection Status: Listed threatened, Priority: HIGHEST PRIORITY”
      When I contacted the state forester to ask why he granted a heavy cut permit for this site he answered simply, “because the consulting forester asked for it.”
      As of today there’s a new house sitting about where a wetland was and possibly a vernal pool. Oh! BTW the town zoning officer speedily signed the permit to build. The planning commission and select board frequently employ the thought stopping cliche of “Vermont has a critical housing shortage” plus the planning commission is currently contorting themselves into unseemly configurations of stupidity to rationalize building on slopes of 20% or more. And this is in a town where two of our downstream neighbors are flooded often. Twice within the last year I think.

      1. NYMutza

        The so-called housing shortages across the country are greatly exaggerated. In San Francisco there are many thousands of vacant housing units as properties are purchased for speculation and in some cases money laundering. As far as I am concerned housing should be a public good, rather than a commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. In my view, most housing should be publicly owned, not privately owned. Ditto for the land it sits on. Everyone needs housing, but nobody NEEDS multiple homes, whether vacation or rentals. Those looking to invest money can buy high end watches and Gucci handbags instead.

        1. Felix_47

          The Singapore model is pretty good and now China is considering emulating it. Can we outsource our policy to Singapore? We can even outsource drug control to them as well or else maybe the Taliban who seem to have had excellent success with heroin.

        2. Priced Out

          https://abc7news.com/realestate/there-are-an-estimated-46000-vacant-homes-in-the-bay-area-but-why/5820129/ Money laundrying, Asians buying houses so their kids get get resident tuition and private equity sitting on properties.

          Oh, and all those complaining about high rents, the inability to find inexpensive rentals and housing shortages might wonder what allowing 3.8 million migrants into the US since Biden took office has on those numbers. Where are they supposed to live?
          Answer, four to each bedroom in the house down the street that you grew up in and can no longer afford.


  2. AJ

    Thanks for sharing the article. VRBO and its ilk are destroying even the communities where no one wants to vacation by reducing home availability and driving up prices. It’s shameful. On top of that Blackrock seems intent on purchasing every home they can. The regular people are getting destroyed. The older people have no clue about it. The nightmare of what the world will be in 50 years is truly frightening.

    1. tegnost


      Taken with the undocumented amnesty, it’s all about disintegration, turn every non rich into a gigger who rents housing by the day, and like the current wars, they’re the democrats baby.
      In my early youth it was segregation, then integration, and now disintegration. Talk about deconstruction…

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      It is not BlackRock which invests nearly entirely in public securities. It is Blackstone, one of the very largest private equity firms and the biggest in real estate, including residential housing.

  3. Oldtimer

    Simple, you don’t live in the neighborhood, pay double or triple or more property taxes if you want to own and even more if your property is vacant and remains so throughout the year.
    Housing is for living, not a Wall Street investment.

    1. LAS

      Some localities already do this through RE tax abatements given to permanent residents; no abatements for owners who are not full-time residents.

  4. Wukchumni

    At least 294 out of 1,100 homes in Tiny Town are short term vacation rentals, all for the sake of profit & to serve mankind.

    My brother in law has a couple of them, and his wife told me after its all said and done, both were marginally profitable, and that means that likely the rest of them are also not that great.

    Our K-8 grade school went from 220 pupils to a little over 100 presently, as the only young families increasingly around these parts are those renting homes. Perhaps we can force them to go to our school during their vacay, to push the numbers back and allow those few local youngins to continue to learn locally, and not have to be bussed to Exeter or Woodlake, both 20 miles away.

    Our local drug store established in 1963 went out of biz last year, as although the claimed population is 2,000, reality is closer to 1,400 to 1,500. You can’t rent out houses and live in them at the same time.

    The pharmacist lost at least a quarter of his business, exit stage left. No biggie if you don’t mind driving to Woodlake where the nearest drug store is now.

    Probably about a quarter of the STR’s in Tiny Town are owned by folks who bought a place here some time ago and had plans of coming more often, but the tyranny of distance put paid to that idea and when AirBnB came along it was a good fit, otherwise said domiciles would be empty 97% of the time.

    The other ones are strictly vulture capitalists, and i’d guess most have little equity in their abodes, why would you bother?

    So when AirBnB et al go away, 225 rode hard and put away wet homes will come on the market more or less all at once. As an added bonus, they are all ready to be shown, and there are no niggling things such as neighbors who became friends.

    When we moved here 18 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for a basic home to sit on the market for a long time, sometimes i’d see houses for sale for years, no takers.

    You can easily envision what happens, most of the ‘owners’ walk away and there’s a bunch of foreclosed ones on the market forever, and they’re all about loss-not profit.

    I’ve used AirBnB here and there, my last instance being a condo in Mammoth last May that cost $72 a night, but after cleaning fees, breathing fees & fees on fees. it was $193 a night. I smelled something rotten in the state of den mark to model accounting.

    1. GF

      Yeah. I think a lot of AirBnB renters think all those fees go to the property owners and may be surprised to learn that the corporation gets most if not all of it.
      Wuk, were you informed ahead of time about ALL the fees and “Extras” you were charged for in the end? Asking for a friend.

      1. Wukchumni

        I was hep to whats what and our rental condo could hold 4 people, so it was a fair deal. A Motel 6 room was about the same tarrif.

        Best May skiing of my life, btw.

    2. NYMutza

      When it comes to vacation homes in some parts of the country, the taxpayers are on the hook for protecting these vacation properties from fires and floods. A few years ago there was a large wildfire that threatened thousands of homes in the Lake Tahoe basin. Many of these are vacation homes. Massive firefighting resources were diverted to protect these houses. Estimates of the cost to protect the properties were as high as $100 million. Forests were allowed to burn so as to protect relatively wealthy peoples property. Shameful, to say the least.

  5. John Beech

    I’m considered by some a heartless bastard. Why? It’s because I don’t agree with legislating what someone does with their property. Why not? It’s because I view this as a large step away from liberty.

    Some don’t want me to rent an investment or 2nd home to others because it affects unionized hotel workers, or then don’t want me to rent a room in my home to someone to make ends meet. Basically, it’s the ‘Mother may I?’ school of thought where we need permission from government. Is this really what we want?

    Or, they don’t want me to buy a second home and rent it out because this makes fewer homes available for the homeless, eh? Basically, this is the ‘We know better than you how you should invest and get ahead in life’ and/or the ‘Do-gooders wanting to care for lost sheep’ *but* at my expense all bundled into one, using the force of my own government to enforce *their* version of utopia.

    Remember Hawaii’s do-gooder governor when he threatened to drop the hammer on the property rights of those with Airbnb properties? Rent them to us, or else! Again, do we want government being able to force you to do what you may not want to?

    Me? I think you’d better be careful of what you want because you may vote for it and get it.

    And no, it’s not that I don’t give a damn about the homeless, but if you look into it, there are almost always poor life choices involved . . .

    I preferred drugs
    I preferred to good off rather than study
    I preferred crime
    I married the bad boy and when he turned out to be bad, I ended up homeless
    I didn’t want to stay on my meds

    . . . whatever. Almost every time, there’s some reason, or other that results in people on the streets. Yet I don’t see ANYBODY saying, ‘Come live with me!’ as a way of resolving this.

    Instead, they always want others (me) to pay more taxes so *they* feel better about that, which offends their eye (homeless). So I wonder this, why don’t they offer to
    give ‘their’ life savings to government (or the church) to help solve this problem?

    Anyway, having traveled the world, meaning I’ve seen poverty that would make those in section 8 housing and living with the help of food stamps, all whilst owing cell phones, cars, and flat screen televisions seem positively wealthy, my attitude is rather less provincial for the experience.

    That, and when it came to discipline and work, I chose to go to college instead of not doing my homework and shooting spitballs from the back of the algebra class in high school, and otherwise being a troublemaker (so no college would take them because they didn’t qualify for grants or scholarships, e.g they weren’t studious enough).

    Me? I woke before dawn to fold newspapers and delivered same before going to school, and I mowed lawns, and raked leaves, and pumped gas for pocket money. This, beginning when I was 12 y/o, instead of delivering drugs, or breaking and entering to get money. Speaking of drugs, I could have gone into drugs like some of the kids I knew, but I didn’t. And when a job as an engineer wasn’t available coming out of college (1982 the time of 12% mortgages and Carter’s malaise and stagflation), then rather than woe is me, I took at job as a salesman at a car dealer because no job was beneath me.

    Choices. We all make them. But somehow I’m considered heartless by do-gooders who expect me to pay more taxes to make up for the poor life choices of others. And they wonder why I’m one of those deplorables who tend to vote Republican.

    Instead, I reserve my heart (and wallet) for *my* loved ones. I’m 65 and still working because I now have a grown-ass daughter at home (complete with 2-kids) whilst attending college – on my dime once again – plus an 87 y/o mother with dementia, to care for.

    Yes, my choice to keep working instead of putting mom in a memory care facility, and my choice to welcome said now divorced-daughter and offering to pay for another degree (a useful one this time). Choices. Mine involve putting me and mine first. I won’t apologize, and I won’t vote to give up my freedoms to buy and rent if I so chose so the homeless can have where to do their drugs and get drunk in the home they won’t work for themselves.

    1. eg

      What “liberty” is there in the land of rentiers? None.

      And to think that this was once common knowledge, John Beech — Henry George’s “Progress and Poverty” being second only to the Bible in sales of books published in English during the 1890s. But then, ours is a fallen age, isn’t it?

    2. VTDigger

      Excellent trolling sir, 10/10

      Pitch perfect caricature of the “I was here first!” generation.

    3. scott s.

      Government wants homelessness because it creates dependency. Then gov’t can offer “affordable housing” that is high density and easier to control the residents.

      One thing not often recognized in the short-term/long-term battle is that long term rental invokes landlord/tenant law which from a landlord perspective is a limitation on what you can do with your property. And in my state landlord pays excise tax on rents and also higher property tax (though I don’t see that landlord nor tenant gets any extra gov’t “service”).

      There’s an idea on Maui now to push time shares into long-term rental. Not sure how that works. Down in Kihei I think most of the condos there were from the Japanese bubble era and built as STR with county gov’t perfectly happy (generates excise tax) while most residents in that time were associated with HC&S, Maui Land & Pine, Pioneer and other plantation-style work/living arrangements. Now that plantation ag is out of business (and gov’t played a role in that) we’re all wringing our hands over what to do. Tourism was the only alternative.

    4. Albe Vado

      As part of lurking NC for quite a while I’ve seen many of your comments. I honestly can’t tell if you’re genuinely like this or if ‘John Beech’ is some sort of elaborate performance art troll meant to be an impossibly exaggerated caricature of the arrogant, self-obsessed upper middle-class NIMBY type (is this character also a small business owner, just to complete the satire?).

      I’ll try to be very restrained here, but as someone whose literal 9-5 job is social work focused on the homeless, you very emphatically have no idea what you’re talking about. Literally every opinion you’ve given on the subject is wrong, and can only be born of abject, willful ignorance. I seriously doubt you’ve ever actually had even one meaningful conversation with a single homeless person, and I guarantee you haven’t with hundreds, like I have.

      You pull out the ‘why don’t you let them into your houses, hmmmm?’ rhetoric (the implication of course being that you don’t want them in your backyard, and neither do the people who advocate for the homeless, and so we’re loathsome hypocrites). But you only further reveal your own ignorance here: we do let them into our houses. The social and work circles I run in do exactly that, in addition to their official job capacities. No one views it as a permanent solution, if for no other reason than that it doesn’t scale. What it does do is get some people off the street for a while until other options become available.

      Your move now.

      1. Sue Kendrick

        It’s in your interest that the problem never be resolved, only addressed with ever increasing doses of taxpayer money.

        If homelessness disappeared, what would you do for a living?

        1. Albe Vado

          Find another job?

          What you’re suggesting is actually ludicrous. I would love for every one of my clients to be permanently housed tomorrow. Housing them, and helping them retain their housing, is literally a significant portion of what we do on a daily basis. I don’t know what you imagine we do all day, but it’s not merely keeping the homeless alive but homeless so we can exploit them for grant money, or whatever you imagine is going on.

      2. Felix_47

        Your comment is interesting. I help run a 70 bed facility for the mentally disabled as defined by SSI meaning basically the homeless in California. The SSI definition is that they are unable to compete on the open labor market and they have a psychiatric diagnosis which is a pretty broad brush. We provide housing, three meals, snacks. medical transportaion, medication administration, air conditioning, maid service, laundry etc. Out of the 1400 per month the government pays we give them 150 in cash for spending. Way more than half have been homeless at one time or another. Many do leave to become homeless, others stay on for decades. If they get pregnant we have to transfer them out because of licensing. The others that do leave do so because they would prefer to live in a tent and have the cash in their EBT account. They also often tell me they want the freedom to use that cash for drugs and alcohol which is usually what got them into our place. Chronic drug and alcohol and then a 5150 hold after a knife fight and then a psych eval and then placement in a facility like ours. No alcohol or drugs are allowed on campus and there is a 10 PM curfew and no overnight stays are permitted for people not in the facility. That means, for example, that overnight sex partners have to come from the facility and that is a limitation some cannot accept. And we provide HIV and STD testing. Taking or bringing drugs or alcohol on campus means a 30 day notice and out. Even though we provide showers and private bathrooms and soap and laundry many of our clients do not like to bathe and smell so they are not allowed in our living quarters. We have two contract social workers and one psychiatrist who come on site and they bill Medical on their own. Ours is hardly a high profit business…five vacancies and we are cash flow negative….so losing clients to the streets is expensive but living in a tent by the beach with unlimited drugs and alcohol and fresh sex partners has its charms for many. Ours is but a segment of the homeless and I realize many are homeless because they lost jobs, the boyfriend and drug and sperm donor found someone younger or prettier or wealthier and will not pay child support etc. Years ago I worked at a State Hospital and the patient mix was basically the homeless of today. Sadly the government got out of that and closed them all down. It was a much better system. The medicines they are now given are just basically designed to make them zombies. Our business model is fading away as the housing first advocates have a lot of political power. As a result we are seeing the state government subsidizing housing first facilities at a million dollars per bed. Of course this is privatized to the politically connected.

        1. Albe Vado

          Given the number of showers I run on a daily basis, as well as the regular backlog of unfulfilled showers (‘sorry try again tomorrow’) because we simply run out of time every day, I think you and I serve very different clientele.

          You work at a place explicitly for the mentally disabled, and while California may indeed have a very low standard for what constitutes that, very few of the homeless I know would meet it even so. I can name literally a handful of ‘lost cause’ people who would genuinely rather sit in a crappy tent getting high while covered in their own filth.

          I’m sorry, but I simply reject the notion that most homeless are crazy. I’m actually a big believer that we need to bring back the state mental hospitals (with many improvements and much better oversight), and also have a meaningful path for things like court ordered stays in those facilities (I can think of several people off the top of my head that are, unambiguously, insane, and everyone in town knows they’re insane. But the burden of proof is apparently so high that they’re just doomed to stay on the street until they die).

          Mental health treatment needs to be part of the toolbox, but not because mental health problems are rampant among the homeless, but precisely because they aren’t. The majority of the people we work with are essentially functional. Maybe some are neurotic, annoying, weird. I’d probably develop strange ticks too if I was living on the streets. But the actually crazy are such a minority that they stand out, and really gum up the works of helping all the other people. We in fact are not a mental health facility, and aren’t trained, paid (my paycheck last year was 20k, before deductions. Upper management is really rolling in it at…40k. And these are numbers I know for a fact), or equipped to deal with mental cases. But the local DHS, police, and hospital see fit to use us a dumping ground for everyone they can’t, or just don’t want to bother, dealing with.

          I’ll take this opportunity to crap on another government agency as well. There actually is a thing called Adult Protective Services. It’s supposed to be the over 65 counterpart to CPS. I don’t know how many people even know it exists. I understand if people have never heard of it, because unlike CPS, which is reasonably responsive and actually helps kids sometimes, I legitimately don’t know what APS does. No hyperbole: they send people to us regularly, people who clearly come under their remit, and when we call them up and go, for instance, “hey, what are you doing, this 67 year old literal cripple who can barely walk is clearly under your jurisdiction” they respond, without fail “ah, but you see, by hobbling to your facility every day he’s demonstrating he can still make sound self-care decisions, and is thus not our problem”. I’ve opined on more than one occasion that they should just defund ALS and give the budget to us as grant money, because apparently it’s just an office of people who spend all day doing literally nothing. End of rant, sorry.

          (And don’t get me started on the VA, but that the US is useless at taking care of its soldiers after it’s used them up is well known)

          Housing first, as well as harm reduction, are objectively the correct models, as well.

          1. Albe Vado

            I’ll also add that while I say I consider some people, who are addicts, doomed lost causes, I’ve thought that about several other people before who still eventually surprised me and, with help, were able to pull it together. Almost everyone has some sort of breaking point, but it’s different for each person. You just have to keep keeping them alive, establishing a connection with them and offering them help. Far more often than not they will, sooner or later, reach out to you in response and things can genuinely begin to change.

            This is what critics of harm reduction don’t get (and I don’t know if it’s from some belligerent bad faith or if they’ve just never bothered to investigate in depth how it works): the model is not to just give people pipes, needles, and narcan and send them on their way. The model is twofold: the frank acknowledgement that users are going to use, and just denying them or telling them that they suck and should stop isn’t going to work, so in the short term you can at least lessen their chances of outright death. And long term you use these encounters as a chance to build trust and connection. You make them aware of and remind them constantly of the options that will help them stop, you keep tabs on them, and eventually they will respond to your offers. I’ve seen this work scores of time. Now even when they do respond it’s no recipe for instant success; it’s very common for people to try and fail six, seven, a dozen times. But eventually it sticks. It’s trench warfare. You just keep hammering away at the problem, knowing it’s a slog.

            The chances of success of all of this goes up substantially if you’re also pairing it with getting people into housing before they’ve proven themselves ‘morally worthy’, which was the old model that has failed for decades. Just objectively, whatever else you want people to do, get clean, get a job, find Jesus, whatever, the chances of any of that happening go up if someone has a dry apartment to return to every night.

            One final thing, and then I’ll stop posting walls of text, a couple months back my county had an absolutely atrocious month for fentanyl overdoses. It was a slaughter. I forget the exact number, but it was insane (part of doing this work is that you get the inside line from the cops on the numbers they’re seeing long before any finalized report is publically released). In the hundreds insane, with many of them fatal. All but a literal handful were housed people.

            Homelessness in the US is fundamentally a housing problem, not a drug problem. There are meth and blues addicts on the street, and far, far more off the street. Don’t confuse cause and effect. Is someone homeless because they’re a crappy failure human who sucks at life (this is the constant refrain of people like John Beech), or did they become addicts after their life fell apart for other reasons and they ended up on the street? Actually talking to the homeless will very quickly lead you do perhaps surprising answers. If I were living in a rain-soaked tent (if I was even lucky enough to have a tent; plenty aren’t) and it was 35 degrees, which is objectively cold but not cold enough for any extreme weather shelter to open, maybe I would spend 80 cents for meth to give myself the illusion that I’m warm. But who knows what that meth was mixed with as filler, so now I’m doing fentanyl, and hopefully I don’t get really unlucky and get a super concentration and OD right then and there.

    5. Steve M

      You know, I just want to start by saying that I’ll appreciate any writer and read any lengthy post that opens with the concept of liberty. I want everyone to have theirs because I’m sure as hell taking mine and using it.

      Then, I want to say with no offense to you personally, but your defense of liberty that follows contains no concept of how that word applies.

      You don’t need liberty on a deserted island. You have it. But we live in a society. There are rules in place to preserve liberty for everybody. Not just me, myself and I.

      I remember when Republicans used to be law and order types. “We all have to follow the rules.”

      We both agreed to a rule before we ever bought a house. It’s called zoning. It’s the reason I can’t start a restaurant or open a gas station or operate a convenience store on my property. Because it’s next door to yours. So why do you get to open a hotel next door to mine? Are you better than me? You got some special privileges or something? How do STVRs get away with that?

      So your argument tells me everything I need to know about you. And the way that it’s taught in Chicago is; you ain’t from around here, are you? It’s your house but it’s our neighborhood, pal. You can choose to be welcomed to it if you want. But you always have the liberty to leave if you don’t like it.

      But like I said, your opening paragraph exposed everything I needed to know. “I’m considered by some a heartless bastard.” Whatever the reason for it, that’s not a guy I’d enjoy as a neighbor.

      So like I also said, no offense to you personally. I wish you well in all your endeavors. But please, just don’t bring them to our neighborhood.

  6. ChrisPacific

    A 2017 study of New York City by the watchdog group Inside Airbnb concluded that the company’s model fuels racism in the housing market. Analyzing the demographics of rental hosts in the city, Inside Airbnb concluded, among other things, that “[a]cross all 72 predominantly Black New York City neighborhoods, Airbnb hosts are 5 times more likely to be white.”

    Studies like this annoy me. It’s a lazy correlation study that implicitly infers causality (‘Airbnb is racist’) without ever actually establishing it. With empirical results like this, it should be automatic to look for a third factor that might be driving the correlation, and there’s a glaringly obvious one in this case: inequality. The relationship of inequality to race is well documented and the survey results here are exactly what you’d expect. You will look in vain for any mention of inequality in either this article or the referenced study.

  7. Tom Doak

    I live in a summer resort town with a big rental market. SOME of the problems locally are about Airbnb, but I think a far larger % go to middle class and wealthy couples who buy up all of the starter homes and fix them up, to rent to the people who would otherwise be buying them.

    You don’t need Airbnb to be part of the rentier class.

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