Airbnb as a new form of tourism gentrification: Growth of STRs and impacts on rental housing affordability

Authors: Dustin Robertson, City, Culture, and Community and Urban Studies Program, Tulane University, Christopher Oliver, Sociology, Environmental Studies, and Urban Studies, Tulane University, Eric Nost*, University of Guelph
Topics: Urban Geography, Tourism Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: Tourism gentrification, affordable housing, regulation, rent gap, New Orleans
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 so-called “sharing economy” is at the center of an emerging nexus between information
technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the expansive growth of capital investment in
urban economic development. Led by companies such as Airbnb, VRBO, Uber & Lyft this has
become a multibillion-dollar sector in just over a decade. While politicians in some cities have
fully embraced the growth of these markets, others have sought regulatory compromise in an
attempt to control market interests, protect some local tourism industries, and collect local tax

New Orleans, a global tourist destination, is one such city attempting to regulate new sharing
economy ventures. At the same time that platforms like Airbnb enable housing units to be used
as “short term rentals” (STRs), one of the most pressing issues the city faces is housing
accessibility and affordability. Advocates for STRs claim their platforms help people make ends
meet, while critics point to evictions and a reduction in the number of units available for long-
term rental. Drawing on census data and a dataset of Airbnb listings in the city, this paper
examines the growth of STRs and its consequences on New Orleans’ rental housing market. Our
research illustrates how some historic neighborhoods in the city are experiencing the devastating
effects of the sharing economy, indicating a new form of “tourism gentrification” wherein homes
in working class communities of color are converted to STRs for tourists hoping to “experience”
New Orleans. We conclude by highlighting some of the limits of digitally-mediated tourism

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