Airbnb in Oaxaca: collectives raise their voice against gentrification

Airbnb is synonymous with gentrification worldwide. In Oaxaca, one of the most touristic cities in Mexico, the inhabitants have protested because they claim that the company has generated a lack of basic services, excessive housing costs and precarious working conditions. The protests have left six activists detained. “They promote hatred against foreigners,” said the governor of the state.

The supply of accommodation in Airbnb in Oaxaca grew during the pandemic. At first it was the Oaxacans themselves who conditioned their rooms or apartments to rent them through the application. Later, the real estate companies monopolized the guests. The service changed and was adapted to the needs of the new tenants. They went from offering cheap rooms to travelers or backpackers, to providing all the comforts of a hotel to tourists with greater purchasing power.

How does gentrification affect Oaxaca?

Until last year, the platform offered more than 4,800 rentals, according to official figures. The demand for rooms in the entity is high. Its score is seven on a scale of 10, compared to other 2,000 places in the world, where Airbnb has settled. The municipalities of the capital and surroundings are the ones that report the most active lodgings, with 2,955. Of these, 1,455 correspond to complete houses, 1,497 are private rooms and only 21 are shared rooms.

According to a report published by the Center for Social Studies and Public Opinion of the Congress of Oaxaca, the accommodation services by mobile applications have contributed to the increase of tourism in the areas of greater attraction. “The Airbnb phenomenon comes to catalyze the process of gentrification in tourist cities, which becomes a snowball. Derived from it, a form of collective displacement never seen before has been generated, from a residential life to another replaced by tourism”.

The most affected, the document points out, are the tenants, a sector with the most vulnerable population that cannot access the purchase, nor the increase in rent, such as single women, precarious workers, young people and immigrants. The increase in rents was one of the reasons why dozens of people marched last weekend.

The mobilization left graffiti with messages such as: “Oaxaca is not merchandise” or “out gringos”. The attendees also spoke out against the lack of water in some neighborhoods such as Jalatlaco, where the liquid is distributed every 40 days among the inhabitants. They blamed the large hotel chains for using water excessively for their services. “It is not scarcity, it is dispossession,” they said.

At the end of the demonstration, six activists were detained, although they were all released after 48 hours. In response, Salomón Jara, governor of the State, assured that the citizens do not sympathize with that cause and described the protest as racist. “The racist struggle is reprehensible, we have the example of Hitler, who believed himself to be a superior race, I do not know if those young people are of a superior race, we respect them, but in Oaxaca there are no superior races, nobody is more or less”.

In Oaxaca, Airbnb pays 3% of lodging tax, but there is no other agreement between the Government and the platform. “Some of the consequences in Mexico of the lack of regulation of applications such as Airbnb include: the fiscal impact, the ease for money laundering, the use of rented housing for illegal purposes, the non-compliance with security and civil protection measures typical of an accommodation establishment and flagrant violations of the authorized land use”, states the report of the state Congress.

The document demands to reform at least five laws to regulate the activities of the company, among them the Lodging Law, the Tourism Law and the Income Law.

Source: Wired