An Open Letter to Airbnb. The pitchforks are coming

By Jared A. Brock

Jared A. Brock
An A-frame cabin in the woods
Photo by Karsten Winegeart

Dear founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk, board members Angela Ahrendts, Ken Chenault, Belinda Johnson, Jeff Jordan, Alfred Lin, and Ann Mather, and all investors, hosts, and guests;

I write to you today in the hope that you will radically re-structure your company before it starts a class war in which you will almost certainly lose the lion's share of your wealth, your moral conscience, your place in history as innovators instead of oppressors, and you and your family’s physical safety.

Brian, Joe, Nathan; you started Airbnb with the best of intentions. You couldn’t afford to make rent on your San Francisco apartment, so you bought some air mattresses and served breakfast to your guests. Brilliant.

But things have changed since then. Now you control an $80 billion company that has devoured millions of housing units, evicted countless families, and turned their homes into full-time clerkless hotels, with a promise in your IPO documents to fight democracies in court for as long as you can afford to do so.

To be clear, renting out spare rooms, attics, basements, and backyards in owner-occupied properties isn’t the problem. It’s when an investor outbids a family for a second property and turns it into a full-time Airbnb. Or worse, when a holiday rental company does so. Or worse, when a highly-leveraged hedge fund buys a swath of holiday rental companies. Or worse, when a sovereign wealth fund buys a portfolio of hedge funds. It’s why the average house will cost $10+ million within 50 years.

Picture the future and do the math. Your company’s mandate is to grow exponentially forever. If new housing construction doesn’t keep up — and it hasn’t for more than a decade — it’s mathematically impossible that your company won’t take hundreds of millions of houses away from real families in the decades ahead. Do you think this will end well for you?

As it stands, you have set your company on a path that can only lead to ruin — for millions of houseless families, and eventually, your leadership team and your investors.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.