Is Airbnb really helping New York City's historically black neighborhoods?

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A recent report published by Airbnb claims that the "home-sharing" platform has provided a marked "economic opportunity" to New York City's historically black neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and West Harlem. According to Airbnb's analysis, in the past year it saw the most significant growth of its userbase in black neighborhoods as compared to any other kind of neighborhood in the city.

"In the 30 New York City zip codes with the largest black populations by percentage, the number of Airbnb guests grew 78% year-over-year, versus 51% citywide," the report explains. "In fact, of the 1.26 million people who visited New York City via Airbnb last year, 1 in 7 stayed with a host in these neighborhoods."

Taken at face value, Airbnb's claim of providing black retirees and empty nesters with the chance to make a bit of money on the side reads like a good thing. But there are some local New Yorkers who are skeptical of the story the company's trying to sell. Specifically, there's no real way that Airbnb can prove that actual black people are using and benefitting from its business.


Murray Cox, a data analyst working out of Bed-Stuy, contends that Airbnb is actually one of the forces contributing to the gentrification of these neighborhoods.

"Airbnb is a gentrifying tool that is being used by people moving into these neighborhoods, who are displacing long-term residents and turning around and renting [using Airbnb]," Cox told Gothamist.


While Airbnb repeatedly mentions that it's growing in black neighborhoods, it doesn't say much about who's actually listing houses and apartments for short-term stays. Instead, Airbnb describes what kind of spaces are being listed, which can be interpreted in a few different ways. Airbnb says that 58% of its listers are offering private rooms for rent, meaning that 42% are offering up whole apartments.

Those full apartment listings, City Council members Helen Rosenthal and Jumaane Williams told DNAinfo, are part of a larger housing scarcity problem to which Airbnb contributes. In a number of cities where Airbnb is growing in popularity, owners of apartments and buildings keep rooms perpetually booked through the service, effectively turning them into illegal hotels and pricing would-be renters out of the market.


"They may want to focus our attention on the hosts who are using the service legally, but we are focused on the ones they are continuing to hide and are using the system illegally," the council members said.