Airbnb, buy-to-let investment and tourism-driven displacement: Lisbon (Aug 2019)

  • Airbnb, buy-to-let investment and tourism-driven displacemnent: a case study in Lisbon

  • By Agustin Cocola-Gant and Ana Gago. Published in Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, on 19 August 2019

  • Abstract:

    • Through detailed empirical analysis of a central area of Lisbon, this paper explores whether short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb channel investment in residential real estate and the way in which the local community is affected by the proliferation of apartments rented to visitors.

    • Between 2015 and 2017 we conducted fine-grained fieldwork in the historical neighbourhood of Alfama and identified both the producers and socio-spatial consequences of short-term rentals.

    • Our research did not find evidence of a sharing economy. Rather, it found a process of buy-to-let investment in which different players make profits from rents and displace residents with tourists.

    • The paper develops two main arguments:

      • first, we suggest that Airbnb acts as an instrument that contributes to the financialization of housing. Compared to the traditional rental market, short-term rentals offer a number of benefits that enhance market efficiency for property owners, making them increasingly attractive for both local and global investors. We found that the suppliers of short-term rentals are primarily investors who use housing as an asset to store capital. The main advantage of the short-term rental market for investors is that while they can make profits by renting properties to visitors, they can also sell them tenant-free at any moment.

      • Second, Airbnb gives way to a hyper-flexible rental market that for tenants implies increasing insecurity and displacement concerns. We portray Airbnb as an example of buy-to-let gentrification that is experienced by residents as a process of social injustice.

  • Keywords: Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal, Airbnb, tourism, tourist apartments, tourist flats, buy-to-let, financialisation, displacement

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