Inside the New Partnership Between Airbnb and the NAACP

By: Brentin Mock city lab.com

The NAACP would like to see more African Americans participating in the Airbnb rental market—is that a good thing?

In 2012, the NAACP lamented in its Opportunity and Diversity Report Card on the hotel industry that “African Americans are … less likely to own, run, or provide goods and services to a lodging property, or be represented on the governing bodies of these corporations.”

Today, a partnership inked between Airbnb and the NAACP seems like a chance to reverse those racial misfortunes. While Airbnb doesn’t turn people into traditional hoteliers, it allows homeowners to run their homes like hotels….

Under the new joint venture, local NAACP chapters will launch grassroots outreach campaigns to educate African-Americans about how to become Airbnb hosts. For every new host that the NAACP brings in, Airbnb will share 20 percent of its revenue from those newcomers with the civil rights organization. The NAACP will also help diversify Airbnb’s company staff and contract supplier base….

The announcement and its rationale raise some questions and concerns. For one, the fact that Airbnb is growing fastest in black communities is not universally seen as a good thing. It’s definitely not viewed that way by many fair housing activists who have been criticizing Airbnb for years, accusing the company of helping reduce potential affordable housing supply. Other activists have accused Airbnb of accelerating gentrification.

But according to NAACP interim president Derrick Johnson, Airbnb actually shields black communities from gentrification….

This is true if you are a homeowner. The most seductive part of Airbnb is the fact that you can turn your home not just into a side-hustle, but a genuine wealth generator. Renting your home through Airbnb for just a few days could be enough to cover one’s mortgage and then some, freeing up day-job income for other investments and luxuries….

“Even if some African-American homeowners and property owners are able to increase their income through Airbnb, it’s not clear that increased access to home sharing through online platforms will counteract the negative effects of inflated home prices.”says Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center….

“In New Orleans, the neighborhoods most likely to attract new hosts are the neighborhoods on the edge of gentrification.”

In Johnson’s view, “There are pros and cons to the question of housing development, and always will be. For us, the reason why we see the value of this partnership is because it allows more African-Americans to participate and not lose their homes….

Then there’s a separate concern: Reports of Airbnb hosts discriminating against people of color by refusing to rent to them….

Johnson said this is also what brought Airbnb to NAACP’s table. He explains that one of the top drivers of the racial wealth gap is African-Americans losing their homes and properties, and that alone justifies the Airbnb partnership.

Says Johnson, “What we’ve seen over time are economic gaps increasing between the richest 1 percent and the 99 percent, but for African-Americans it’s even more accelerated. The number one cause for that acceleration is the loss of value in [African-American] homes. We see this as a way to stop that trend and allow individuals to appreciate a growth market around the asset that they currently have. We’re trying to stop the bleeding and that massive loss of wealth in the black community.”

 

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