Things That Matter

Mexico City Is The Latest City To Fall Victim To Airbnb’s Gentrification

When we think about Airbnb, we usually think about holidays. Who hasn’t used an Airbnb? Or, at least, who hasn’t at least thought about using an Airbnb? After all, there are so many benefits to booking an Airbnb: you can reserve a spot that suits you – all through an app – and you can directly communicate directly with the owner of your temporary home. Heck, you can even opt in to living with said owner, and getting to know the real niche, hidden gems of a new location. The fact that your feedback on the accuracy of their listing hangs over their head means that Airbnb owners generally have to be accountable. But, not all is well when it comes to the world of Airbnb. Or, should we say, Airbnb is what’s not right, in some places of the world.

Mexico City has really been feeling the impact of gentrification at the hands of Airbnb.

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Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about gentrification. Because to be honest, it mostly sounds like a fancy word real estate agents use to convince people to buy up property. And, that’s not too far from the truth. Gentrification is the process where an area – most commonly neighborhoods – become more pricey. This can happen through the introduction of local amenities, property refurbishment and development, or even just simply an increase of demand for housing in a particular area. Most of the time, it’s a combination of these things that feed gentrification. And while this is great for people who own property in gentrified neighborhoods, this is less great for the poor, who eventually get pushed out of the place that they call home.

Local tenants are finding that they’re being pushed out of their homes, while property owners make room for vacationers.

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Where Mexico City is concerned, this has meant that those fortunate – or, wealthy – enough to own property and land have seized on the opportunity that is Airbnb. Local tenants are finding that they’re being pushed out of their homes, while property owners make room for vacationers willing to pay multiple times the average rent price. “Here in the historic center, we are aware of dozens of buildings that used to be social housing or middle-class housing that have now been completely converted into Airbnb. The biggest apartment buildings are being converted into hotels, but when it isn’t possible to change the legal land use, they are converted into Airbnb,” a local resident said in a recent interview with Truthout. 

But Mexico City isn’t the only city suffering from the rise of Airbnb.

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If you thought that this was a problem just for Mexico City, you’d be wrong. Protest posters in Amsterdam read things such as, “Stop the eviction of Amsterdam!” during a December march against the changes Airbnb had brought to the city. Reports from The Guardian say that in 2018, Barcelona received 32 million tourists – which is approximately 20 times the residential population. The city now boasts graffiti saying, “Tourists go home, refugees welcome.”

What’s frustrating locals a lot goes beyond gentrification, into social and cultural shifts.

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Locals are seeing their neighborhoods turn into transitory destinations, rather than a community built on strong relationships. “Before Airbnb, you had neighbors you could depend on. They looked out for you. If you went out of town, they’d get your mail, your paper,” New Orleans resident, Janice Coatney, said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “You just had more of a neighborly neighborhood.” 

However, not all is doom and gloom.

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A few countries have introduced legislation in order to curb the socio-economic changes Airbnb has brought to cities around the world. Barcelona authorities placed a moratorium on new hotels in 2015 – and Airbnb hosts are required to hold a license to operate. It’s now illegal for entire apartments to be rented out for less than 30 days in the city of New York. Amsterdam has a cap on the number of nights that Airbnb hosts can rent out their apartments, having reduced that number from 60 to 30. So, policy-wise, these cities are trying to preserve their sense of community, without completely sacrificing their tourism industry.

Another alternative can be found in the aptly-named Fairbnb.

Instagram / @italianembassyinlondon

It’s essentially Airbnb, but with a twist: 50 percent of the revenue made from hosting a visitor is donated to local community projects. Fairbnb has sought to protect neighborhoods by also establishing a “real homesharing” policy – where hosts may only place a maximum of two houses on the Fairbnb market.

Ultimately, though, while we can see the buds of change beginning to blossom, it may be a while yet before it takes root in these gentrified neighborhoods. Here’s hoping that Mexico City won’t suffer too much from the strain of both migration and tourism.

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