Reservation Confirmed: A Reading List About Airbnb

It’s easy to get distracted while reading about Airbnb. First, the listings themselves range from luxurious to quaint, and if you have any sort of upcoming vacation planned … well, let’s say it’s a timesuck. Double if you have I-want-to-see-where-you-live voyeuristic tendencies. Second, Airbnb is giving away $1 million to customers who document their random acts of kindness, which is a hell of a headline and a bit of an oxymoron. Airbnb’s detractors are firm and its fans are rabid; Its prices, tempting. I’m planning a trip to Seattle in the summer—we’ll see where I end up sleeping. Here are five pieces about Airbnb hosts, the company’s founders, its guests and its implications for city politics.

1. “The Dumbest Person in Your Building is Passing Out the Keys to Your Front Door!” (Jessica Pressler, New York Magazine, September 2013)

Two idealistic art students founded Airbnb, and business boomed once the recession hit. But they didn’t foresee backlash from New York politicians or affordable housing advocates.

2. “Dropbox, Airbnb, and the War Over San Francisco’s Public Spaces.” (Julia Carrie Wong, The New Yorker, October 2014)

The neighborhood youth and their supporters were pointing fingers at a bigger target: the local government and its tech-friendly policies. As Kai put it, “Who is making the policies that are encouraging tech workers to move into communities? And how are those spaces being emptied in the first place?” … The question is: Which community is the [Recreation and Park Commission] department interested in serving?

3. “The Secret Life of an Obsessive Airbnb Host.” (George Tzortis, Narratively, May 2014)

To save money and quit his soul-sucking job, the author slept in his freezing office whilst renting his Washington, D.C. pad to Airbnb users. Spoiler alert: it gets old, fast.

4. “A Crash Course in Airbnb.” (Stuart Miller, New York Times, January 2014)

I included this shorter piece from the NYT because it was the first thing I’d read about families with kids using Airbnb, especially for long-term travel.

5. AirBnb Ruined Our Lives and Turned Us Into Entitled City Dwellers (Rachel Signer, The Billfold)

Our plan, hatched in secrecy from the landlord and the realtors, was to use AirBnb to fund the new apartment. Upstairs, where the kitchen and common room are located, we have a spacious master bedroom with two tall windows, two closets, and exposed brick. Cha-ching—within a week of moving in, using a profile that I’d set up in my previous apartment, a dinky place where I rented out one of the rooms for $50 per night, we had our first guests.