Airbnb, YIMBYs, and the Pro-Housing, Anti-Human Movement

David Friedlander
4 min readApr 26, 2024
Airbnb was a sponsor of YIMBY Town, and over the years has poured millions into pro-housing lobbying efforts in the face of public outcry and the well-documented damage the company inflicts on individuals and communities.

Few companies have fucked up housing more than Airbnb. Instead of using homes for their historic purpose — i.e. housing people — Airbnb takes housing off market for locals, converting that housing into holiday accommodations for tourists. The scope of these conversions is immense and its reach is global. Before NYC clamped down on Airbnb and other short term rentals (STR), the city had three times as many STR listings as it did conventional rentals — each listing representing an unavailable home for New Yorkers living and working in New York making New York wages. London, a city so unaffordable its mayor tried to pass a two year rent freeze, currently has almost 92,000 Airbnb units, 62 percent of which are entire homes. Cities like Florence, Italy have banned new listings in its historic core and numerous other European cities have enacted restrictions on how and where Airbnb can operate. There is ample robust research showing how Airbnb increases rents in the areas it moves into. Given all this, it seems a bit incongruent — and disingenuous — for the company to launch a pro-housing Housing Council as they did in January.

A 2016 protest supporting greater Airbnb regulation in NYC. Via The Verge.

Airbnb’s Housing Council was ostensibly formed to “advise the company [Airbnb] on policies, initiatives, and partnerships it can support to help spur housing supply and better balance the benefits of home sharing with the needs of communities.” Some of those partnerships are with pro-housing groups like California’s YIMBY Action and pro-housing events like YIMBY Town.

Airbnb’s political lobbying efforts have increased with the company’s growth and the growing ranks of its detractors. Via Open Secrets.

The Housing Council is part of Airbnb’s history of political local and federal lobbying, which has increased lockstep with the growth of the company and its numerous detractors. It’s hard to tell how far the company’s tentacles reach into other pro-housing groups like YIMBY Action and politicians like California state senator, Scott Wiener, but the company proudly announced they’ve spent “more than $1.4 million in donations to national and local housing advocacy organizations since 2022.”

Two of the YIMBY movements most outspoken advocates, YIMBY Action’s Executive Director, Laura Foote and California State Senator Scott Wiener, receive direct and indirect contributions from Airbnb.

Airbnb’s pro-housing stance follows the dubious YIMBY reasoning that housing unaffordability is caused by a lack of housing. Build more housing and supply will match demand and everyone will be happy and housed…affordably, at that. Yet, as described above, one of the reasons there is limited housing is because much of it is taken offline for Airbnb rentals. But wait, Airbnb and the YIMBYs have a response to housing markets ravaged by Airbnb: build more housing. Duh.

This tweet from NYC’s YIMBY/pro-housing group, Open New York, proves that everything is a ‘more housing’ nail to a YIMBY hammer.

Airbnb and the YIMBYs seem to think there should be enough housing for everyday people, enough housing for Airbnb units, enough housing for empty Billionaire Row condos, enough housing for empty, warehoused luxury units, and so forth. Whatever the question, the answer is more.

But exactly how much more housing is needed to satisfy Airbnb’s highly elastic, volatile market demand? What happens when more housing is built and the Airbnb/STR market collapses, as it’s been doing the last couple years? What happens to this housing if and when regulation makes STRs illegal or highly restricted, like what happened in New York City? What will happen to debt markets if and when Airbnb and rental markets slow or collapse and thousands of revenue-less, vacant homes are unable to cover their mortgage payments? What if a glut of Airbnb units makes their host towns and neighborhoods sterile tourist traps? These are clearly the questions of a racist, homeowning NIMBY who’s terrified of change. Get with the data, Boomer!

Airbnb advocating for more housing to drive affordability is like Raytheon advocating for more weapons to drive world peace. We can’t get there from here, and definitely not with them. Or, paraphrasing Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve the problems with the same company we used to create them.”

PS: For more commentary on Airbnb and its impact on people and places, I recommend checking out

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David Friedlander

Pondering the future, today. Housing, health, and lots of other stuff.