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IT SEEMS, on the face of it, almost benign. Airbnb connects budget travellers with home owners, rakes off a commission, and everybody’s happy. Well, maybe not everybody. New York City, for one, has had a few concerns about an unregulated agency which links stranger with stranger, and undermines a Big Apple hotel trade subject to strict regulation and State and Federal taxes. In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has even issued an edict directing that householders should be constrained from letting their rooms through Airbnb for more than 90 days a year.

Could it be that the ‘sharing community’ business model of global rental agents Airbnb is not so much the openingsalvo of a socialist dawn as yet another way for smart entrepreneurial types to become rich? One hates to spoil a good party, but when Airbnb investors are buying up flats as assets to be sweated, rather than homes to be lived in, the problem of marketplace distortion arises. This certainly applies in Edinburgh’s Old Town, a once pleasant area full of archaic charm and quaint closes, but now rapidly degenerating into a Hieronymus Bosch theme park of indescribable hedonistic vulgarity thanks to its relentless commodification by its cash strapped council and its marketing advisers.

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iScot Magazine
June 2017

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