AirBnB Under Attack in Boston

Supposedly, AirBnB is a danger because it is “a completely unregulated industry.” We should pray for a day when all industries are unregulated.

What Mark Horne wrote awhile back about Santa Monica’s attack on AirBnB applies pretty well to the recent news story about Boston.

To understand how stupid and short-sighted Santa Monica is being, let’s think about three groups of people. First, there are people who need temporary residences and are willing to pay for those residences. These people could be vacationers or they could be people who have a temporary job relocation. But they need housing.

The other group of people would be investors and entrepreneurs who see an opportunity to serve the needs of these other people and provide them with temporary residences.

Finally, there are others who need private residences on a more permanent basis: potential homebuyers, not renters or people thinking of houses as rentable properties.

All three of these groups have needs and in a free market they cooperate in the distribution of limited resources. Not everyone gets what they want because they would all prefer to get free housing or free money. But in the process of buying and selling or renting the best possible prices are established and the best possible arrangement is created.

With that in mind, consider the headline in the Boston Globe: “Lawmakers worry owners taking advantage of Airbnb.”

Well, of course they are “taking advantage” of it! Why wouldn’t they? And because of it, consumers get to take advantage of better rates!

The vast majority of people who advertise Boston homes on the online rental website Airbnb list just a single property — presumably to occasionally rent out their home or an extra room.

But 15 percent have posted multiple listings, according to a Globe review, highlighting concerns that the site is being used to run substantial lodging businesses while avoiding regulation and taxes.

Another concern: that landlords and investors seeking more profits are turning traditional housing into short-term units, further reducing the housing supply in Boston’s already tight real estate market.

“Right now, this is a completely unregulated industry,” said state Representative Aaron Michlewitz. “People are taking advantage of the situation.”

The obvious solution should be to deregulate the hotel industry so it can stay competitive with the new residential products that are available.

But that’s not what politicians want to think about.

The struggle between traditional housing and short-term units should be settled by the market. That will balance needs better than politicians trying to micromanage other people’s affairs.