Airbnb, NAACP team up in Seat­tle

Lodi News-Sentinel - - BUSINESS - By Keerthi Vedan­tam

SEAT­TLE — Len­nox Mat Sinde’s mod­est house in West Seat­tle has seen ev­ery­one from busi­ness­peo­ple to short-term in­terns since he signed up for Airbnb in 2017. And the money he makes from rent­ing out a cou­ple rooms is go­ing to his next big in­vest­ment.

“In a place as ex­pen­sive as Seat­tle, any­thing folks can do to make extra in­come is wel­come,” said Mat Sinde, who is black. “It goes straight into my sav­ings account and helps me with the down pay­ment of my next prop­erty.”

Airbnb launched a pro­gram with the NAACP’s Seat­tle Chap­ter this week to re­cruit more peo­ple of color to be­come hosts on the home­shar­ing com­pany’s site. Airbnb touted ben­e­fits such as broad­en­ing the eco­nomic im­pact of vis­i­tors out­side of the tourist hotspots and bring­ing in more money for hosts who have a room or two to spare.

"Whether or not com­mu­ni­ties of color have known about it and have lever­aged it, that’s where the gap lies,” said Janaye In­gram, di­rec­tor of na­tional part­ner­ships at Airbnb. “They don’t know about the op­por­tu­ni­ties to lev­er­age it and to stay in their com­mu­nity.”

The part­ner­ship, which be­gan in 2017, was pre­vi­ously es­tab­lished in five other cities in­clud­ing San Fran­cisco and Atlanta with the goal of in­creas­ing eco­nomic devel­op­ment among com­mu­ni­ties of color and in un­der­uti­lized ar­eas.

“Peo­ple have used (Airbnb) to pre­vent gen­tri­fi­ca­tion,” In­gram said. “We know peo­ple who have used Airbnb to stay in their homes in­stead of be­ing moved out. This is a tool.”

But whether the pro­gram has been suc­cess­ful is dif­fi­cult to mea­sure. While In­gram said the pos­i­tive ef­fects are felt through­out th­ese neigh­bor­hoods––as hosts rec­om­mend lo­cal busi­nesses for vis­i­tors to pa­tron­ize––Airbnb does not keep track of the eth­nic de­mo­graph­ics of its hosts nor the mon­e­tary im­pact on neigh­bor­hoods.

The goal is that “the com­mu­nity it­self is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing more vi­brancy,” In­gram said. “And I don’t want to put a num­ber on that be­cause...there are so many fac­tors re­gard­ing why peo­ple host.”

Gi­u­lia Pas­ci­uto, a pol­icy an­a­lyst at the devel­op­ment re­search organizati­on Puget Sound Sage, said more tourism would have some pos­i­tive im­pact in pock­ets of King County, but isn’t the most efficient way to grow the econ­omy.

“We ba­si­cally looked at who ben­e­fits from Airbnb and the short-term rental mar­ket, and es­sen­tially it’s home­own­ers who ben­e­fit,” Pas­ci­uto said.

Be­fore new reg­u­la­tions took into ef­fect this year, ac­cord­ing to a study by Puget Sound Sage, 12% of hosts listed more than 40% of rentals in Seat­tle. And two-thirds of all listings were whole rental units.

“They were es­sen­tially small-scale ho­tel mar­kets that were taking whole units off the long-term rental mar­ket,” Pas­ci­uto said.

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