March 1, 2017
It’s mostly white residents cashing in as Airbnb hosts in the city’s predominantly black neighborhoods, according to a new report by a watchdog website.
Using host photographs, Inside Airbnb determined that across 72 mostly African-American neighborhoods, the Airbnb host population is 74% white — compared to just a 13.9% overall white population in those neighborhoods.
They estimate that white Airbnb hosts in black neighborhoods earned $159.7 million, compared to $48.3 million for black hosts.
“It’s clear that it’s a racial gentrification tool,” said Inside Airbnb founder Murray Cox. “They’ve been using people of color and black faces in their marketing and lobbying campaign, but they’re not fundamentally the people who are using it.”
Both sides in the ongoing battle over the home renting service have attempted to seize on the racial justice issue, with Airbnb charging in a letter last week that a law to crack down on rentals unfairly impacts people of color, while letting whites who are more likely to own their own homes off the hook.
The firm has pointed out that use of the website is growing fast in black neighborhoods, with 78% growth in 2015 alone.
But according to Inside Airbnb’s analysis — using software that assigns race to a host’s photograph — it’s mostly white residents in gentrifying black neighborhoods who are benefiting.
They say that about three quarters of rental income is going to whites even though they represent just 13.9% of the neighborhoods’ population.
The neighborhood with the biggest racial gap is Stuyvesant Heights, part of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn — where 74.9% of Airbnb listings belong to white hosts, while only 7.4% of all neighborhood residents are white.
Six neighborhoods account for 54% of all the site’s listings in black neighborhoods — southern Bushwick, northern Crown Heights, Bedford and Stuyvesant Heights in Bed Stuy, Central Harlem, and Hamilton Heights. All those areas have seen an influx of white residents in recent years.
Airbnb questioned the report’s accuracy, saying it’s not reliable to determine race using a computer program. The firm does not ask hosts or guests for information on their race.
“This so-called report is nothing more than racial profiling. Anyone associated with Inside Airbnb and its founder, Murray Cox, should immediately condemn this offensive and intentionally divisive piece of fiction,” said spokesman Peter Schottenfels.