Dear AirBnB… (a letter of concern)

21 04 2016

Dear AirBnB,

Wow, can you believe how far you have come in just 7 short years? Back then, when we first became hosts in early 2011, nobody had a clue what this was. Most of my friends looked at me with utter consternation and asked, “Wait, so… your’re letting a complete stranger sleep in your home??” with genuine concern for our safety.

After 5 years of hosting, in first a cozy town and then in a big city, I have to say that we have seen some amazing transformations over the life of AirBnB. Some are great! Some not so great. We have mixed feelings about others.

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We host because we LOVE our neighborhood. We also love to travel. So, we love to share all our favorite things about our town with visitors, to help them have the best possible locavore experience during their stay in Indy. And we get to learn about where our guests are from, their own culture, and their own adventures in traveling this magnificent globe!

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As AirBnB has grown, there has been some controversy.
I’ve read all about the stuff transpiring in big cities like NYC & Paris, and the more recent public battle in San Fran. I certainly did not like what was happening there, and was grateful that problem didn’t affect us in our much smaller city.

 

cropped_initiatives-fountain-square_web_1413983859-e1460575659170In the past 6-12 months, however, I have seen a dramatic change in our neighborhood, now that AirBnB is becoming so much more popular. Not in a good way. Outside investors are now flying into Indy, gobbling up cheap rental houses (where our friends who work as busboys and poets used to live). These investors are then flipping these cost-effective rentals- installing granite counters, white subway tile, and stainless steel appliances- and kicking out the local folks to make more money on AirBnB. They are providing ZERO personal, local flavor, and are turning AirBnB into a vapid money-making scheme.

 

What we LOVED about AirBnB, was the personal touch!! And now we are getting crowded out of our own neighborhood so someone who lives in California, or New York, can “get rich quick.” This seems SO opposite of the core values and mission of AirBnB. Or at least that’s what we thought. Were we wrong?

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What do YOU  think, AirBnB?

Is having absentee hosts the kind of transformation you envisioned when you went public?

If not, change is in order.

 

Here are my thoughts. It’s time to clamp down and make hosts have limitations, in order to preserve that personal, local flavor that differentiated you in the marketplace in the first place. I would propose these three simple steps to preserving the character of the peer-to-peer platform:

 

  1. Hosts must live in the zip code they host in. Period. NO LONG DISTANCE HOSTING.
  2. 12801628_10209410092079465_5208121896916928251_nHosts must give the option to GREET guests in person, when desired by the guest. No more of this absentee host bullshit. Sure, sometimes we are traveling too, and cannot meet in person- but we always let the guests know that when they book! And if we are in town, we ALWAYS offer to give them a quick tour and walk them to the square, and usually grab a drink with them if they like. That’s why most of our former AirBnB guests become actual friends. It’s so awesome!
  3. Put a cap on how many listings one host can have! I just heard about one person who has TWENTY HOUSES that he lists on AirBnB in our vicinity. Twenty!!! How personal could that possibly be??? Honestly, we have 4 active listings (2 entire houses and 2 rooms in our home), and sometimes it can take a lot to keep everybody straight when you have a lot of folks checking in and out every day or two. I don’t know what the right number is, but I think you could limit hosts to something like 6 or 8, and that would still be pretty generous, and stop greedy outsiders from kicking all the long term renters out of our neighborhood.

 

 

gentrification-620x350Gentrification sucks. I know that it’s a complex issue that I won’t resolve in the next two paragraphs, but as much as we can, we should be trying to transition neighborhoods in a way that builds & strengthens community while maintaining diversity.

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We use our income from AirBnB to subsidize rent for local folks in our other rental. Our own personal business model is a 1-for-1 ratio of AirBnB to local folks. It pays our mortgages, while also preserving the rich cultural socioeconomic diversity that makes our neighborhood so desirable. It’s in AirBnB’s best interest to be invested in preserving this diversity as well. I know that when I travel, I don’t want to get stuck in some stuffy neighborhood where all the houses look perfectly quaffed, everyone looks the same & is afraid to hang out on their front porch for fear of the “others.” But that is exactly what will eventually happen if AirBnB does not do something to stop this money-hungry transformation that our neighborhood is starting to succumb to.

2016-04-20_16-26-18I sincerely hope you are still reading this, and that you take our suggestions to heart. We loved AirBnB, but at this point we are less and less interested in sharing our host experience with others because the market is so over-saturated, and starting to lose some of its core values. I hope you are as committed to preserving the local, personal aspect that made AirBnB so successful in the first place. I know we are.

 

10492426_677134702369157_7868290351175616890_nSincerely,

Your 5-year SuperHost,

Kelly Weger

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