Cashing in on sharing space or displaced?: The impacts of Airbnb short-term rental hosting on livelihoods and access to affordable housing in Flagstaff, Arizonass to affordable housing in Flagstaff, Arizona

Authors: Jessica R Barnes*, Northern Arizona University
Topics: Tourism Geography, Economic Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: sharing economies, platform economies, livelihoods, governmentality, Airbnb, inequality, short-term rentals, social justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The market for short-term rentals has grown tremendously due to facilitation of peer-to-peer transactions by digital technologies and social media through websites such as Airbnb. This “sharing economy” is often touted as a potential source of income for individuals and promises people greater control over their time and spaces of work. However, the proliferation of short-term rental units has been found to increase local rents, displace long-term renters in multiple communities, and disrupt traditional tourism economies. Short-term rentals are a contentious issue in Flagstaff, Arizona, a city with limited housing stock, increasing population pressures, and high numbers of tourists visiting each year. These factors contribute to housing prices far above what a median income family can afford. For home-owners, hosting may shift the distribution of tourist dollars towards individuals, but for the community drives housing costs higher still and displaces residents. To understand the impact of these activities many questions need to be answered: What is the relationship between short-term rental properties in Flagstaff, access to affordable housing, and income generation for residents? How does the labor of hosting short-term rentals impact the lives and livelihoods of individual hosts and the wider community? I draw on interviews with hosts and discourse analysis of Airbnb listings and literature to examine the livelihood strategies of short-term rental hosts and the everyday practices related to hosting. I conclude by identifying income generating potential and explaining relationships between various mentalities, inequality in access to housing and hosting, and the importance platform economies and governance.

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