Letter: Short-term rentals are creating unsustainable problems

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2018, file photo, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during an event in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Regarding the recent article, “Gov. Spencer Cox points to two problems in Utah’s housing crisis: Airbnb and Vrbo.”

Unless one has been living under a rock, it’s no secret that one of the biggest obstacles for low-income families and individuals in Utah right now is the availability of affordable housing.

Cox is right to be concerned about the impact that short-term rentals are having on Utah’s housing market. The business models of short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo are contributing to a humanitarian shelter crisis right before our very eyes. While Utah currently lacks an estimated 40,000 affordable housing units, nearly 20,000 short-term rentals are listed as available around the state.

Short-term rentals are not only stripping the housing supply from local Utah communities and driving house sale prices up, they are also forcing an unsustainable price increase in available long-term rental units, pushing working families and individuals out of our communities, and accelerating gentrification.

Recently, a new Utah report showed that homelessness in the state increased last year compared to the year before. Utah’s shelter crisis demands the attention of policymakers, however the majority of Utah’s legislators don’t seem overly concerned about the impact of short-term rentals on the sustainability of our communities.

It’s time to finally put people over profit and demand that our officials work to find solutions to our widening shelter crisis.

As for our own personal actions, perhaps the next time we start browsing Airbnb listings for an upcoming trip, we might pause to consider the possibility that our method of vacationing just may be contributing to the struggle and displacement of others. Is it really worth it?

Kaitlyn Aiono Teeter, Salt Lake City

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