Whether or not Airbnb is the cause, locals say neighborhoods are changing. Rick Mathieu, a longtime resident of Treme, said his neighborhood is nearly empty of families. Pointing to a house, he said a woman who lives in San Francisco "bought it and made it into a money-making thing." But he defended her right, as a property owner, "to do anything you want."We're so conditioned to think that we have no voice in what the world around us should look like or who should be served by public policy. Whatever fits the landlords' purpose must automatically be best. The rest of us don't matter and should adjust accordingly.
Jamie Ruth, who sells art and runs a tattoo parlor on St. Claude Avenue, a rundown corridor that's become a hipster hangout since Katrina, says Airbnb is good for business, but can hurt neighborhoods.
"I get a lot of walk-ins staying in Airbnbs," she said. But she called it "obnoxious" for people to buy homes and turn them into tourist rentals. "It really messes with the neighborhood," she said, "and also drives up the rent for people who actually live here."
I'm never quite sure what to do about the ubiquitous resignation; this sense that the current policy is the best policy. But the current policy isn't just something that happens on its own. It comes about through a series of deliberate choices. There's no obligation to blithely accept those choices. People need to demand to participate in making them.