A proliferation of Airbnbs, or similar short-term rentals, in a neighborhood contributes to higher rates of crime in the area, according to a new study by two Northeastern researchers. The relationship is likely because the highly transient housing “pokes holes in the social fabric of the neighborhood,” says Dan O’Brien, associate professor of public policy and urban affairs who, with his colleague Babak Heydari, associate professor of engineering, recently published a comprehensive study of Airbnb listings and crime rates in neighborhoods throughout Boston.
They found that it was the proportion of buildings with at least one home-sharing listing—and not the volume of tourists cycling through such units—that had the greatest (indeed, only) measurable effect on crime in the neighborhood. Their research was published Wednesday in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science.
“What seems to be the problem is that Airbnb is taking households off the social network of the neighborhood and eroding its natural capacity to manage crime,” says O’Brien, who also studies criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern.