Nashville faces Residence Resistance with Airbnb’s Gentrification

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New homes in Nashville are being built and used for Airbnb (Photo by: Nzingah Walker)
New homes in Nashville are being built and used for Airbnb (Photo by: Nzingah Walker)

Nashville, TN – With housing policies constantly changing, Airbnb’s face backlash in certain zoned areas throughout the city. Ever since Nashville became known as the It City, tourism has reached an ultimate high.

While people have always visited Nashville to seek fame, there is now an influx of visitors who visit for the food, music, and lifestyle that the city provides.

This has caused a demand for short-term rentals. Sites such as Airbnb, VRBO, and Home Away’s are useful for tourists with short term journeys to Nashville. According to Jurui Zhang, the author of the article, Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice, he agrees that “there’s an ever growing number of consumers searching for more convenient and lower cost-accommodations than staying at traditional hotels. Airbnb’s make money by charging guests and hosts for short-term rental stays in private homes or apartments booked through the Airbnb website.”

Yet their impact on neighborhood conditions and housing affordability causes Nashville to struggle with regulation. According to research from the Economic Policy Institute, the economic effects or Airbnb are not all positive. Airbnb’s can increase real estate cost, especially for renting.

Just a couple of years ago, visitors to the city would have been put into expensive hotels in Nashville’s downtown or cheaper stays outside of the city. But thanks to home-sharing platforms, Nashville’s tourists are now weekend neighbors with the city’s long-term inhabitants. However, conflict arises between the two groups: the long-term residence verse the short-term visitors. 

The Nashville community has flourished with rapid gentrification in neighborhoods. The city has issued more than 450 short-term rental permits to homeowners in East Nashville. Yet, there are hundreds more rentals that are suspected to be operating illegally in East Nashville. According to Nashville’s Department of Codes and Building Safety, it is estimated that there are more than 2,200 short-term rentals operating illegally in the city. Nashville is estimated to have more than 4,500 such rentals throughout the city.

Local Nashville residents, especially in East Nashville, have had enough. They’re making a competing bill that would ban non-owner-occupied short-term rentals outright in residential neighborhoods by 2021.

“A lot of people are pissed off at Airbnb,” says Nell Levin, a longtime resident of East Nashville. Levin has been a host on the platform since 2010. But Levin analyzes the distinction between the way she uses Airbnb and the short-term rentals that are damaging her neighborhood. She books guests only when she’s at home in the city, and she has her short-term rental permit.

When Levin arrived in East Nashville in 1996, there was rarely any tourism. Her ZIP code had an equal amount of black and white residents. Things began to change in 1998, when an F3 tornado damaged around 300 homes. An enormous sum of insurance money came to East Nashville neighborhoods carrying investments in both homes and businesses.

Ten years later, Nashville housing market had an economic advantage. And another natural disaster, a 2010 storm that dumped more than 13 inches of rain on the city and caused flooding, was used as an opportunity to replace low-income communities with upscale housing.

As these events occurred so did the nationwide fascination with Nashville’s music, its food, and its tourist-friendly brand of a Southern culture. The number of annual visitors to the city grew from 10 million to about 14 million over the same period, according to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.

What’s going on in Nashville is just one example of the battles Airbnb faces. Airbnb’s is now a nine-year-old, $31 billion corporation that continues to get push back in many cities across the nation.

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