Boston Globe, July 2021
Airbnb has ingrained itself into travel culture in recent years. But a new study from Northeastern University links the growth of units listed on the short-term rental app in Boston to 911 calls reporting violent crimes.
The study, published last week, highlights how the proliferation of short-term rentals in some Boston neighborhoods is leading — over time — to a breakdown in trust and community bonds, said co-authors Dan O’Brien and Babak Heydari. That, in turn, makes people more likely to call the police on suspicious behavior.
“When you think about Airbnbs, which are literally the most transient population you can imagine, it’s people moving in and out every few days,” said O’Brien, who teaches public policy and criminal justice at Northeastern. “That household itself is just a nonplayer in the social fabric of the neighborhood, and you’ve essentially created a hole there.”
The effect grows stronger over time. 911 call rates don’t change much immediately, the researchers found, but they begin increasing after a year, and more the year after that. This suggests a gradual erosion of the small interactions that build and maintain community bonds.