AirBnB's coronavirus-induced struggles could be a boon for affordable housing under a new proposal floated by a member of the Los Angeles City Council.
"The coronavirus emergency presents the City of Los Angeles with both major challenges and opportunities in its efforts to address the housing affordability and homelessness crisis," writes 1st District Councilmember Gil Cedillo in a motion introduced on July 29. "As private housing stakeholders face challenges unique to their business models and operations, the City must seek out ways to steer changes in the housing market to create opportunities [sic] for low and moderate-income residents...."
Cedillo, using a program recently implemented in the Portuguese capitol of Lisbon as a model, has proposed that Los Angeles should rent vacant homes currently listed on AirBnB, with the intention of repurposing them as affordable housing for low- and moderate-income tenants. The Councilmember states that such a program has the potential to generate thousands of units and rooms for lower-income renters.
Lisbon's program, called Renda Segura (which translates to "secure rent,"), went into effect in May 2020. As of July, its first round of applications has returned 177 apartments to the rental market in the city, which is home to more than 500,000 people.
In Los Angeles, which is the largest short-term rental market in California, there nearly 40,000 AirBnB listings according to the website Inside AirBnB. According to the website's data, roughly 24,000 of those listings are for entire homes or apartments.
The wave of travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have been especially damaging from tourist-dependent AirBnB. Cedillo's motion states that bookings on the site have decreased by upwards of 76 percent in the cities of Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Paris.
The company has responded by lobbying for government relief for its hosts, and even going as far as to ask guests to contribute to a fund supporting the platform's hosts.
AirBnB "megahosts" - meaning those managing dozens of properties - have faced ballooning rental and mortgage payments without any income from short-stay guests, according to Business Insider. The website AirDNA estimates roughly one third of listings on AirBnB are owned by hosts who manage 25 or more properties.
Cedillo's motion requests a report back from the Housing and Community Investment Department on the feasibility of a Los Angeles version of the Renda Segura program. It has been referred to the City Council's Housing Committee for consideration.