Airbnb has long been pointed to as an agent of gentrification, and Inside Airbnb, a watchdog of the short-term-stay site, has released a study that it implies bolsters that claim. According to the report, as cited by The Real Deal and New York Daily News, 74 percent of Airbnb’s host population across 72 predominantly black neighborhoods is white. This is a stark contrast to the neighborhoods’ white population, which numbers just under 14 percent.
The study goes on to estimate that white hosts in predominantly black neighborhoods have earned $159.7 million, compared to just $48.3 million earned by black hosts. Airbnb claims that in 2015 alone, the use of the room-share site grew by 78 percent in predominantly black neighborhoods.
Inside Airbnb’s study found that the neighborhood with the biggest disparity between the percentage of white hosts in comparison to its white population is Stuyvesant Heights, where 74.9 percent of hosts are white but just 7.4 percent of neighborhood residents are white.
It’s important to note that the study was conducted using host photographs uploaded to the site rather than self-identifying information, which is not gathered by Airbnb. Peter Schottenfels, a spokesman for Airbnb, issued the following statement: “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.”
In the wake of the report’s release, Airbnb has followed up with their own data about Brooklyn hosts. According to Airbnb, 15,000 Brooklyn hosts opened their homes to 565,000 visitors in 2016, representing a 43 percent increase in visitors since last year. Also compared to last year, guests are paying 27 percent more to stay in Brooklyn—or, framed differently, hosts are earning 27 percent more for stays.
Airbnb says typical Brooklyn listings earn $4,400 per year on average and are used for fewer than three nights per month. A press release continues, “These middle-class New Yorkers use money generated through home sharing to save for retirement, repay student loans, pay their mortgage or rent or start a small business.”