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

According to a new study by researchers at Northeastern University, an increase in Airbnb rental units in Boston neighborhoods could be linked to an increase in violent crime.

The researchers’ results show that violent crime increased with the number of Airbnb short-term rentals in an area, while other types of crime did not.

“The proliferation of Airbnb in a neighborhood appears to be linked to an increase in violence, but not to public social unrest or private conflict,” the study concluded.

The peer-reviewed study looked at Airbnb housing data in Boston from 2011 to 2018, data from the Northeast, and 911 deployments from the same time period. Professors from the Northeast examined reports of violent and nonviolent crime and found that violent crime increased about a year or two after Airbnbs increased. The housing data used in the study came from a website independent of the $ 75 billion company.

Between 2014 and 2018, the number of Airbnbs in Boston rose from 2,558 to 6,014, according to the study. In 2019, Mayor Martin Walsh reached an agreement with Airbnb to regulate short-term rentals in Boston.

The study’s authors, Dan O’Brien and Babak Heydari, suggest that the data might show that when more temporary people live in a neighborhood, like in a shared apartment, they don’t build the same connections and obey the same expectations as longer-term residents .

Put simply, there can be a lack of neighborly behavior.

“That depends on people actually knowing each other. It depends on how people build relationships, ”O’Brien told the Herald.

But it’s not the tourists’ fault, they said. Extreme short-term renters, like those taking a weekend getaway, are unlikely to be attending a community meeting. Long term residents, on the other hand, may not check these units for the welfare of the tenants.

“What a large number of Airbnbs could do in a neighborhood is drill holes in the neighborhood structure,” he said.

O’Brien and Heydari said if these trends continue over time, they could seriously “erode” local communities. The Allston / Brighton neighborhood stood out to the authors as evidence of their hypothesis with an astonishing correlation.

However, Airbnb described the study’s conclusions as “incorrect”. In a statement, the company said the study “uses an unrepresentative sample within a city to draw nationwide conclusions; applies an erroneous methodology, including an erroneous regression analysis; and relies on inaccurate data. “

O’Brien said they would have liked to have had access to Airbnb’s own numbers, but they are confident they came to the conclusions with their own data for Boston.

“They are not transparent about their data at all,” said O’Brien. “This criticism is not credible because it is guarding this data.”

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