My girlfriend believes that Airbnb enriched her life so much, that she decided to sue to the Town for shutting her down.
I have witnessed first-hand what Airbnb means to her, and it goes far beyond making money to defray the cost of housing and living expenses. She truly has the gift of hospitality. She enjoys meeting new people and helping them feel welcomed. She is skillful at entertaining guests. She is very friendly and outgoing, very sociable and gracious. After enjoying so much fun hosting Airbnb, she was devastated when the Town of Brookline shut her down. Airbnb was not what either of us anticipated it. It became something much more than just a way to supplement income: it provided her with an enriching and rewarding social life; it became passion of hers. I truly feel that Airbnb fills a need in her life. And I am hoping that people will recognize this.
Brookline, MA - On Monday, May 11, 2020 Heleni Thayre filed her memorandum response against the Town of Brookline as part of an ongoing legal battle, involving the Town’s Building Commissioner and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Despite the Town’s current policy against short-term rentals (STRs), Thayre maintains that she has a right to operate an Airbnb in her home. Thayre, who is 76, also claims the ban on short-term rentals disproportionately affects older residents who need to bring in extra income in order to age in place.
Yet what is perhaps most stunning about her latest filing, is her claim that the relationship between Airbnb guests and hosts is a special one, worthy of constitutional protection.
According to Thayre, she has made important connections with Airbnb guests, whom she has invited into her home -- interacting with them over breakfast, taking them out to dinner and lunch, exchanging personal stories, and in some cases, even making lasting friendships with them.
“For some reason, many AirBnB relationships tend become intense and personal very quickly.” she states in her affidavit, “ There seems to be something almost magical about welcoming visitors into your home...I have never had so many interesting conversations with so many interesting people in such a relaxed environment, in such a short time.”
Thayre believes that these interactions fill an important need in her life. According to Thayre, “Having amazing people come to me through AirBnB is not unlike traveling in terms of new experiences and broader horizons, but cozier and without the ongoing uncertainty of where you will sleep at night. This leaves plenty of energy for connecting with your guests through stories and laughter which suits an older person very well!
Thayre is not alone. Airbnb has enriched the emotional life of many hosts. This is especially true for women over age 60. As many as 82 percent of senior women hosts reported that hosting on Airbnb has helped them stay more socially and emotionally connected. As one blogger write:
“My 86 year old mom, who is battling Stage 4 lung cancer, is at her best when she is socially engaged. She literally morphs from a sullen and sickly person into a completely different and more energized person when she socializes. Her eyes sparkle, her energy increases, and her beautiful smile lights up the room when she engages with her many different guests. She often offers some small cakes or cookies from the Asian market as she invites her guest to sit down and watch an episode of America’s Got Talent with her. Her laughter and her smile is her best medicine and I have so much gratitude for all those “strangers-turned-friends” who have come through Airbnb. It has come to the point that the extra income they get from hosting is really a secondary benefit. (Cindy Kang, 2020)
Enhanced social interaction— meeting people and making new friends—is a frequently mentioned aspect of hosting Several studies have underscored the role of social interactions in motivating hosts to engage in sharing accommodations. For instance, Lampinen and Ikkala (2014) interviewed several Airbnb hosts and found that while earning money was important, the opportunities to meet people and have enjoyable company was important motivation for hosting. For example, Alfonso, a 53-year-old, stressed the importance of the social nature of Airbnb hosting. For him, renting out a private room in his two-room apartment was, in essence, a way to meet new people, since his social circle in Helsinki was relatively small and at times felt insufficient to him:
“For me, it’s not that easy to meet people … Of course, I could go to a bar or something, but it’s not that easy for people of my age to meet people like that. But sometimes I have really nice conversations and moments with my guests, people who are total strangers to me. I think it’s similar to what happens when you are traveling. You meet people on trains and airplanes, and it’s just easy to connect with them.”
Research has shown that many travellers use Airbnb to have meaningful interactions with hosts and create memorable experiences with them. For example, Sthapit and Jiménez-Barreto (2018) found that memorable Airbnb experiences were related to the social interactions with the host. Tussyadiah and Zach (2017) cluster analyzed Airbnb reviews and found that they focused on the importance of hosts and feeling welcomed in a home. Other studies show that guests value the distinct role of the host, the host's efforts, and the accompanying intimacy (Tussyadiah, 2016) According to Paulauskaite et al. (2017), “[T]he connection made with the host leads to a more personal and companionable experience, sparking feelings of familiarity and sociability.”
Airbnb markets itself as a means of engendering new communities of belonging, making “one less stranger” through the incredibly personal experience of living in someone else’s home. In addition to its “#OneLessStranger” campaign, Airbnb further highlights the positive effect a host can have on travelers’ experiences with such catch phrases as “Belong Anywhere” and “Welcome Home” (Airbnb 2015, Homepage), all of which promote the idea of kinship and rapport with people.
There is considerable truth to this advertisement. Research shows that Airbnb is helping create friendships that would have never existed. For instance, Lampinen and Coye Cheshire (2016) interviewed Airbnb hosts and found examples of valued social interaction extending beyond individual stays, sometimes leading to new friendships. An Airbnb host, Shirley, spoke about her luck of having hosted guests with whom she built strong bonds: “I have brought in people that I have made connections -- really deep friendships that otherwise it would not have happened. -- I had dinner with—one of them came into my house, the other day, who just wanted to see me and see my dog. I’m having dinner with another one on Thursday. So, yeah, the friendship is just, it’s amazing.”
Hosts and guests have even developed romantic relationships after staying together for a few days. See Anh-Minh Le, “When Strangers Meet” Film Contest Winners, Airbnb Blog (Jan. 27, 2015) (holding a contest for those who “met someone special through a chance encounter on Airbnb” because “an overwhelming number of couples ... met and fell in love through the serendipitous circumstance of an Airbnb”).
Of course, not all guest-host relationships become this durable. Indeed, most are quite short-lived; they form and dissolve as guests arrive and depart. Nevertheless, there is substantial evidence that shows that hosts and guests derive significant emotional satisfaction from their interactions with each other.
The study by Farmarki and Stergiou (2019) “Escaping loneliness through Airbnb host-guest interactions” supports not only that hosts are motivated by social and psychological factors, but also argues that these factors are increasingly important in a time when loneliness troubles more and more people.
Many people, particularly those who have lost a spouse, can feel quite lonely and isolated in their home. And for these people, Airbnb is a much-needed platform to socialize and meet new interesting people. As one blogger writes, “It was 8 months after my husband’s death that I decided to share my home with Airbnb guests.…I’ve had some wonderful guests, some I’d even consider friends because we shared so many wonderful stories.” (Elene Marsden).
In fact, Thayre believes that these connections are on par with other intimate associations, such as friendships, dating partners, familial relations, and even marriage -- personal relationships that courts have deemed important enough to protect from government interference. So the question is…. Should the Courts legally recognize the host-guest relationship as an intimate one?
Tell us what you think.
@Chiuba0 Interesting angle. The thing is, at this point, I think the majority of Airbnb listings are entire house or apartment rentals, with many of those being run by big property management companies- those so-called hosts may never even meet the guests, let alone form an intimate relationship with them.
So to pursue this angle, rather than making it about STRs in general, in order for it to make any sense, it should only apply to listings which are home-shares, or listings where there is an on-site host. And even some of the latter don't involve the host interacting much with the guests. Self-check-in to a self-contained unit on the host's home property, and the hosts don't "disturb" their guests or hangout with them at all. There are also hosts who list that type of accomodation who do sit and share a bottle of wine with their guests in the evening, with long conversations and a bond formed. Or hosts who list camp sites, who sit and enjoy bonfires at night with their guests, offer them some of their garden produce, etc. There's just so many different host/guest scenarios.
But as a home-share host myself, who has a lot of interaction with my guests, I can say that I have had much the same experience as your girlfriend- I've met amazing people, we've shared life stories, laughed together, shared meals. Some I keep in touch with, and if I was going to travel to their neck of the woods, I would have no hesitation in looking up most of my past guests and getting together and reconnecting. I've missed the extra income from having to close up due to COVID, but I also definitely miss hosting guests from all over the world.
@Chiuba0, yes, a very interesting perspective. As @Sarah977 says, many, if not most, Airbnb listings are now completely impersonal. I have long wished for Airbnb to go back to what it was originally, a true home-sharing platform, because I truly believe it was and still is an incredible idea. Who would have thought that we could open our homes and lives to complete strangers and trust that they would do the right thing? Despite the concerns of some of my friends and family members when I first started doing this, the one thing that being an Airbnb host has taught me is that 99.999999% of people are wonderful. We may not always share the same politics or views on things, but most people are good. As a single person living alone and working from home, I love that Airbnb brings me into contact with different people from around the world on a very frequent basis. Like @Sarah977 and your girlfriend, my guests and I often share food and wine and chat long into the evening, and I have met people who I now call friends. I wish your girlfriend the best of luck with this and really hope she wins.
Thank you @Kat9 I sure hope so too. As a person over seventy and a former dancer and - in my youth a traveler - there are many exciting things I can no longer do for physical and financial reasons. I never would have imagined how exhilarating the AirBnB experience would be. It has opened doors I nevert knew existed. Imagine welcoming visitors into your home but having adventures I thought could only come through travel. Given my responsibilities here - as well as some injuries - this is cozier than travel and often equally as much fun! It is among the most rewarding things I've ever done.
Yes @Chiuba0 , I echo the experience of all the ladies you mention. Every word of it! At 59, it's so much nicer welcoming interesting people into your home, rather than trying to find connections somewhere. Here in the UK, we haven't been allowed to host since March 22, so I'm missing the stimulation of interesting people, as well as the vital income.
Hope your friend is allowed to host again.
@Chiuba0 , we have only been doing it for about 4 years now but it has become a big and great part of our lives, one we don't want to do without for a variety of reasons. The people, stories and yes, the money are irreplaceable as a package. Like @Heleni-and-My-Friend-Chiuba0 , I am not that interested in hitting the dusty trail anymore, its best that the good times come to us instead of searching for them in places we might not be prepared to hunker down in if things go covid or worse! We are now getting some guests back but we can't wait for the many bookings to return. Stay well Chiuba, JR
Absolutely @Melodie-And-John0 ! Exactly how I feel! I no longer have the inclination, energy , nor funds to travel the world, & no longer wish to travel alone, like I did when I was younger. So the world comes to me, (or did, pre-Covid, & I like it that way! I've hosted over 40 nationalities! (I cheated a bit with the numbers of foreigners resident in Britain, but over 40 nationalities none the less!)