Neighbors Don't Let Neighbors Operate an Airbnb
The ostensibly friendly neighborhood rental company has a black box division and is spending tens of millions of dollars in an effort to avoid any form of government regulation.
The Rooster was enjoying some drinks a few months ago at The Patio with Franklinton Board of Trades director Trent Smith, a legend in The Bottoms.
“There’s a house right down the street, on Hawkes Avenue,” The Rooster recollects Smith saying. “I remember meeting the the new owners. They told me they couldn’t wait to help do their part to beautify the neighborhood. Fast forward three months, and they’re not returning any of my calls. That house is on Airbnb every weekend, and it’s become a nightmare for the neighbors. There are for or five of them in the neighborhood, too. But what can you do?”
The Rooster covered the problem of investment firms purchasing residential properties throughout the state back in April. In that article, we touched on how it related to the concept of flipping houses and their role in the spike in rental prices that swept America.
You might be surprised that The Rooster’s cry for help did not shake the White House or Congress. Nor did it dent the psyche of Ohio’s state government or Columbus’ local government.
That nothing is being done to stop these investment jokers from hoarding a necessary commodity. Once again that means we will have to rely on our neighbors hopefully understanding the concept of community solidarity to push back against this plague.
A few days after Francie Orthmeyer listed her Northeast Side home this spring, she had 26 offers on the house, the highest one for $250,000, in cash.
She instead accepted an offer for $13,000 less.
The reason: She did not want investors to buy her home of 31 years.
"I just did not feel good about it," Orthmeyer said. "I thought, 'this guy must be an investor, not someone buying it for a home.' I didn't want to do that with my neighbors. I like my neighbors."
Orthmeyer instead sold her home to a young couple purchasing their first residence.
"I knew they had been looking for a long time, I knew they were getting discouraged," she said. "I’m 78. I think they need a house more than I need the money.”
Sure, Ms. Orthmeyer might be trying to settle her account with God before she meets her maker, but we at The Rooster will pray for her eternal soul because she understood the score. (As The Dispatch article relates, she thankfully isn’t alone in refusing to sell to a certain kind of buyer.)
One reason Ms. Orthmeyer might be skeptical of selling her house to an investment firm — “I didn’t want to do that to my neighbors” — would be that she understands one way main way the investment groups look to get a handsome return is by flipping longtime residential housing into Airbnb rentals.
The obvious problem was noted by Trent Smith in the opener of this dispatch. The new landlords allow short-term rentals through Airbnb, and suddenly the neighborhood is living next to a never-ending frathouse party that none of them could have envisioned when they originally bought their houses. The landlords take everything from the neighborhood and give nothing back; they’re parasites.
This is why, in 2021, Upper Arlington, a wealthy suburb of Columbus stuffed with old family money, banned short-term rentals for anything under 30 days.
But there is another problem with Airbnb. Its primary customers are private landlords, and those noble class of people are finding new ways to turn America’s regressive tax code into “sweet government cash in their pockets,” as one upstanding citizen said in his YouTube show explaining how he got $145,000 for his Airbnb property in Cleveland:
As real estate investors we are used to seeing government housing grants go to other home buyers. As investors we never expect to qualify for any type of government housing subsidy. Typically speaking government sponsored housing grants and housing subsidies are for owner occupants or those on a low income. Today that all changes.
I’m always thankful when people only need to say a few words to offer searing insight into their worldview. This guy is openly bragging about stealing money originally intended for owner occupants and the poor.
He’s saying “Today that all changes” like it’s a good thing, with zero regard for how his actions will compound the frustrations of life onto those below him on the economic hierarchy that inevitably exists in every capitalist society.
Whom would you like as a neighbor for the rest of your life? Ms. Orthmeyer or Mr. YouTube Real Estate Guru? Ms. Orthmeyer would run away with that vote to the point “landslide” would be an understatement.
Yet Airbnb doesn’t make money off Ms. Orthmeyer. They make money off YouTube Real Estate Gurus. They have made so much money they spend millions of dollars on an elite teams of fixers to quell potential P.R. nightmares like that time on New Year’s Eve in 2015 when a women returned to her illegally rented short-term Airbnb in NYC and was raped at knifepoint by an intruder who was later caught with his own set of keys to the rental.
That morning a call came in for Nick Shapiro. A former deputy chief of staff at the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Council adviser in the Obama White House, Shapiro was two weeks into a new job as a crisis manager at Airbnb Inc. “I remember thinking I was right back in the thick of it,” he recalls. “This brought me back to feelings of confronting truly horrific matters at Langley and in the situation room at the White House.”
Shapiro notified other Airbnb executives, including Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky. Meanwhile safety agents from the company’s elite trust-and-safety team sprang into action. They relocated the woman to a hotel, paid for her mother to fly in from Australia, flew them both home, and offered to cover any health or counseling costs.
The duplicate keys posed a particular problem for the company and a mystery for investigators. How had the man gotten them? Airbnb doesn’t have a policy for how hosts exchange keys with guests, and its reputation for safety, and possibly its legal liability, hinged on the answer. Shapiro (who’s since left the company) helped coordinate an investigation into the matter.
“I had situations where I had to get off the phone and go cry,” a former agent recalls. “That’s all you can do.”
Not a glowing endorsement for your company when a former CIA spook and military-industrial complex concubine is admitting on record to having PTSD flashbacks while working for the ostensibly friendly neighborhood rental company. That article was written in 2021, which means he couldn’t even crack five years at the company before resigning.
Airbnb also understands how its business models lives on the regulatory precipice. It’s a company that could be financially ruined in a month if cities were ever able to successfully regulate (and more importantly, enforce those regulations) on short-term rentals.
That’s why it has taken truckloads of Mr. Real Estate Guru’s money to finance astroturfed movements to badger local officials into kowtowing to the company with former CIA gremlins on the payroll.
A new joint investigation by Ethical Consumer and the University of Manchester, has found that ‘Home Sharing Clubs’, associations of landlords recruited by Airbnb, now exist in 400 cities globally and are having a corrosive influence on local democracy and communities.
Airbnb is using the clubs to advocate for favourable regulation (or deregulation) as part of a wider global campaign to bring about favourable conditions for short-term lettings. This benefits the professional landlords that dominate the platform, despite them being discouraged from joining the clubs to give them a more authentic grassroots feel. Professional landlords account for the majority of Airbnb's revenue and intensify housing crises, especially in certain popular neighbourhoods where longer-term residents are driven out.
The clubs, which are made up of platform users that typically rent out spare rooms, lobby local councils and build local networks on behalf of the company as part of a wider political strategy. This work often includes ringing and emailing other platform users, asking them to sign petitions, attend demonstrations or write to local elected representatives. Many of them also attend local government hearings to tell emotive personal stories of why Airbnb is important to them.
The Rooster always says it’s a red flag when bosses start referring to employees as “family” or some other familiar feel-good concept. It’s like being in a huddle, down one point with three seconds left to go in the game, and your coach spent the entire 30-second timeout reminding you that you were all on the same team.
It goes without saying, coach, or at least it did until you started talking like that. We wouldn’t tolerate that kind of talk from a coach; why do we from our employers?
Concepts like being on the same team or belonging to the same family are connections that don’t need to be verbalized at every interaction. Anything else is an attempt at brainwashing.
But let’s say Democratic city councils in places like Columbus, Cleveland or Cincinnati were actually proactive on this material crisis adversely impacting their communities, and they purged the plague of short-term rentals.
It’s a pleasant pipe dream, right? Make no mistake: The sewer creatures in the Statehouse would be there to strip local authorities of control in name of their corporate overlords—as State Rep. Sarah Arthur, a previously profiled legislative dipshit of ill repute who was last seen trying to instruct public schools to teach both sides the Holocaust, proved in February.
State Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur, who represents the majority of Ashtabula County in the Ohio House, has introduced a bill to prevent municipalities from banning them.
“Ohioans should always have the right to use what is often their most valuable asset, their homes, as an investment to make money through short-term rental,” Fowler Arthur said in a press release announcing the legislation. “Short-term rentals also help drive traffic to countless small businesses — restaurants, shops and tourist attractions — across the state. Eliminating short-term rentals hurts Ohio’s economy.”
“Rental hosts, like those who rent through Airbnb, are small-business owners,” Stivers said in the release. “We should be supporting their entrepreneurial spirit, not trying to prevent it through local prohibitions.”
What makes Ohio a particularly dark place to live for anybody with a brain poisoned enough to think about state government for more than 30 seconds is that there is no crime any corporation can’t commit, and state legislators always seem to have a coincidental financial interest in passing such horrendous legislation.
An Ohio House committee passed legislation Tuesday that would block local governments from banning or directly regulating short-term rentals like Airbnb within their borders.
Fowler operates an Airbnb in Geneva-on-the-Lake with her husband, she said in an interview. She said the House legal counsel didn’t see any conflict of interest given her ownership.
She said the experience lends her perspective on how property owners deal with local governments in setting up an Airbnb.
Only when the bill successfully passes the committee four months after being introduced do we learn Fowler has a financial stake in the proceedings. Weird how she left that part out when introducing the bill in the first place.
What she means by “how property owners deal with local government” is that she understands how government works and doesn’t want it working in a simple, straightforward way that would negatively impact her pocketbook while allowing a multinational Big Tech gremlin with a “black box division” to trample over the rights of predominantly urban residents.
Geneva-on-the-Lake has made no attempt to regulate short-term rentals, or at least any that were serious enough to be published online.
Normally, introducing blatantly corrupt legislation and being the subject of a local TV segment entitled “Comments about Holocaust from representative raise concerns,” would be enough to ruin a state representative’s career.
Not in Ohio. Politicians like Fowler Arthur know that this kind of stuff will never pierce the media biosphere where her hog voters feed at the troughs. And if it ever did, it would be spun into a fable about State Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur, a successful small business owner defending your values at the Statehouse, was standing tall against the woke mob’s latest cancel culture victim. Hell, the hog voters of Ashtabula County will probably promote her to State Senator at the first opportunity.
Meanwhile, it will be another thumb stuck in the eye of urbanites in the few areas of the state that out-of-staters visit on a regular basis. Not only are our votes a laughable concept to these losers, but they won’t even grant us the autonomy to ban plastic grocery bags or crackdown on the absentee landlord who let’s a rotating cast of strangers throw bacchanalian orgies every weekend in the single-family house next door.
They do this all in broad daylight in the middle of Columbus’ downtown, which speaks to just how shameless and invincible they must feel. The Rooster admits it must be one hell of a rush as long as you’re too stupid to be troubled by your actions keeping you awake at night.
THOSE WMDs. Yes, labor activists can be style icons… News organizations need to re-learn how to cover car collisions—especially when the victim is on foot… The best way to wash your sheets (and how often)… How a top legal firm destroyed itself… He spurred a revolution in psychiatry, and then he disappeared… The Fort Bragg murders.