Increased violent crime in Boston neighborhoods, study links Airbnb vacation rentals


An increase in the number of Airbnb rental units in Boston neighborhoods could be linked to spikes in violent crime, according to a new study by researchers at Northeastern University.

Researchers’ results show that violent crime increased with the number of Airbnb short-term rental units in a region, unlike other types of crime.

“The prevalence of Airbnb in a neighborhood appears to be associated with an increase in violence, but not with 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 Northeastern, and 911 dispatches from the same period. Professors in the Northeast looked at reports of both violent and non-violent crime and found that violent crime tended to increase about a year or two after an increase in the number of Airbnbs. The housing data used in the study comes from an independent company website of $ 75 billion.

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

Study authors Dan O’Brien and Babak Heydari suggest that the data may show that when more transients move into a neighborhood, such as in a shared apartment, they don’t form the same connections and obey same expectations as long-term residents.

To put it simply: there may be a lack of neighborhood behavior.

“It depends on whether people actually know each other. It depends on the people who develop the relationships, ”O’Brien told the Herald.

But it’s not the tourists’ fault, they said. Extreme short-term renters, such as those leaving on weekends, are not likely to attend a community meeting. On the other hand, long-term residents may not check the welfare of tenants in these units.

“What a lot of Airbnbs in a neighborhood could do is dig holes in the fabric of the neighborhood,” he said.

O’Brien and Heydari said if these trends continued over time, they could seriously “erode” local communities. The Allston / Brighton district imposed itself on the authors by demonstrating their hypothesis with an astonishing correlation.

But Airbnb called the study’s findings “inaccurate.” In a statement, the company said the study “uses an unrepresentative sample in a city to draw general conclusions nationwide; applies the wrong methodology, including wrong regression analysis; and is based on inaccurate data.

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

“They are not at all transparent with their data,” said O’Brien. “There is no credibility in this review because they are keeping this data.”

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