Lennox Mat Sinde’s modest house in West Seattle has seen everyone from businesspeople to short-term interns since he signed up for Airbnb in 2017. And the money he makes from renting out a couple rooms is going to his next big investment.
“In a place as expensive as Seattle, anything folks can do to make extra income is welcome,” said Mat Sinde, who is black. “It goes straight into my savings account and helps me with the down payment of my next property.”
Airbnb launched a program with the NAACP’s Seattle Chapter Wednesday to recruit more people of color to become hosts on the homesharing company’s site. Airbnb touted benefits such as broadening the economic impact of visitors outside of the tourist hotspots and bringing in more money for hosts who have a room or two to spare.
“Whether or not communities of color have known about it and have leveraged it, that’s where the gap lies,” said Janaye Ingram, director of national partnerships at Airbnb. “They don’t know about the opportunities to leverage it and to stay in their community.”
The partnership, which began in 2017, was previously established in five other cities including San Francisco and Atlanta with the goal of increasing economic development among communities of color and in underutilized areas.
“People have used (Airbnb) to prevent gentrification,” Ingram said. “We know people who have used Airbnb to stay in their homes instead of being moved out. This is a tool.”
But whether the program has been successful is difficult to measure. While Ingram said the positive effects are felt throughout these neighborhoods––as hosts recommend local businesses for visitors to patronize––Airbnb does not keep track of the ethnic demographics of its hosts nor the monetary impact on neighborhoods.
The goal is that “the community itself is experiencing more vibrancy,” Ingram said. “And I don’t want to put a number on that because…there are so many factors regarding why people host.”
Giulia Pasciuto, a policy analyst at the development research organization Puget Sound Sage, said more tourism would have some positive impact in pockets of King County, but isn’t the most efficient way to grow the economy.
“We basically looked at who benefits from Airbnb and the short-term rental market, and essentially it’s homeowners who benefit,” Pasciuto said.
Before new regulations took into effect this year, according to a study by Puget Sound Sage, 12% of hosts listed more than 40% of rentals in Seattle. And two-thirds of all listings were whole rental units.
“They were essentially small-scale hotel markets that were taking whole units off the long-term rental market,” Pasciuto said.
“It could be an income-generating strategy, but because Seattle has such a low black home ownership rate, I don’t think it’s the best way to benefit them,” Pasciuto said. “One company recruiting black home owners isn’t going to really improve generations of poverty.”
Sadiqa Sakin, Seattle’s NAACP chapter president, said her main goal for the partnership is to improve access to education about different investment options. The chapter will receive about 20% of Airbnb’s earnings from hosts who register through their joint outreach effort.
“The goal here is to increase our economic flow in black communities,” Sakin said. “We have a lot of people that are dealing with financial loss. Here’s a resource to diversity your income streams.”
“All the benefits goes back to the fact that it generates extra income,” Mat Sinde said. “I would encourage other members of the black community to take advantage of the platform.”