Home Sharing In Rural Areas: A Mixed Bag

April 10, 2017 |

Since 2009, home sharing services have taken the world by storm. Today, 11% of U.S. adults have used some form of home sharing service, while Airbnb alone represents 17% of available short term rentals in major cities worldwide and is poised to overtake large hotel chains in the total number of rooms available for rent.

In metropolises like New York City and San Francisco, sharing services flourish by providing visitors cheaper accommodation than traditional hotels, while also helping permanent residents pay their rent and increasing traffic to local businesses. In contrast, an influx of temporary residents produces a mixed bag of results for more remote or rural areas.

The Benefits of Sharing Services

The Irish government has taken a particular shine to Airbnb and the home sharing phenomena. An Airbnb-produced report on the effects of home sharing in rural Ireland opens with the Irish Minister of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural, Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphrey TD praising Airbnb for promoting economic activity in rural Ireland. Between September 2015 and August 2016, over 650,000 guests stayed in the homes of 11,000 unique hosts.  Guests spent an estimated €47 million at local businesses, while the average host earned an annual €2,700.  The report also found that 85% of guests chose Airbnb because they wanted to live like a local and that 82% said that they’re likely to return because of their Airbnb experience. Unsurprisingly, hosts received an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 for the study period.  

The Downside of the Home Sharing Boom

In areas like Joshua Tree, California, locals have begun to resent temporary residents’ presence in their community. In this small American town, there are over 200 vacation rentals listed on Airbnb alone, while other services make use of campsite sharing services that add even more visitors. Two million individuals visited Joshua Tree in 2015, representing a 27% increase from the prior year. While these temporary residents stimulate local businesses, they’ve driven up cost-of-living prices for permanent residents and caused lasting damage to the Joshua Tree’s famous wildlife. Temporary visitors also strain local infrastructure by forcing the city to provide municipal services for several thousand more individuals than actually live there permanently. Individuals who first moved to Joshua Tree for a more peaceful lifestyle now stay away from local restaurants because they’ve become too busy, and fear that home sharing services have irreparably damaged their once-quiet community.   

Municipalities considering placing restrictions on home sharing should carefully weigh the lifestyle and economic consequences of their proposed legislation.  Home sharing isn’t going away anytime soon, but it’s up to local governments to determine how it can best serve their communities.