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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Study links Airbnb vacation rentals to violent crime rise in Boston neighborhoods

The increase in Airbnb rental units in Boston neighborhoods may be linked to spikes in violent crime, according to a new study by Northeastern University researchers.

The researchers’ findings show that violent crime increased with the number of Airbnb short-term rental units in one area, while other types of crime did not.

The study concluded, “The prevalence of Airbnb in neighborhoods appears to be associated with an increase in violence, but not with public social disorder or private conflict.”

peer reviewed study looked at Airbnb housing data in Boston from 2011 to 2018, data from the Northeast, and 911 dispatches from the same time period. Northeast professors examined violent and nonviolent crime reports, and found that an increase in Airbnbs was followed by an increase in violent crime about a year or two later. The housing data used in the study came from a website independent of the $75 billion company.

According to the study, the number of Airbnbs in Boston increased from 2,558 to 6,014 between 2014 and 2018. In 2019, Mayor Martin Walsh entered into an agreement with Airbnb to regulate short-term rentals in Boston.

The study’s authors, Dan O’Brien and Babak Hedry, suggest that the data may show that when more transient people reside in a neighborhood, such as part of a home, they do not form and follow the same relationship. Expectations as long-term residents.

Simply put: neighbor’s behavior can be lackluster.

“It really depends on the people getting to know each other. It depends on the people developing the relationship,” O’Brien told the Herald.

But it is not the fault of the tourists, he said. Extremely short-term renters, such as those on a weekend trip, are unlikely to attend a community meeting. On the other hand, long-term residents are not checking those units for the well being of the tenants.

“What Airbnbs can do in large numbers in the neighborhood is poke holes in the fabric of the neighborhood,” he said.

O’Brien and Hedry said that if those trends continue over time, they could seriously “decay” local communities. The Allston/Brighton neighborhood stuck to the authors demonstrating their hypothesis with surprising correlation.

But Airbnb called the findings in the study “wrong.” In a statement, the company said the study “uses a non-representative sample within a city to draw broad nationwide conclusions; applies a faulty methodology, including flawed regression analysis; and relies on inaccurate data.”

O’Brien said he would love to have access to Airbnb’s own numbers, but he feels confident in jumping to conclusions with his own data as it applies to Boston.

“They’re not transparent with their data at all,” O’Brien said. “That criticism has no credibility because they are guarding that data.”

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