The Gentrification of Airbnb: Closing Rent Gaps Through the Professionalization of Hosting

Jelke R. Bosma and Niels van Doorn in Space and Culture

In this article, we argue that it is analytically productive to think about the professionalization of hosting on Airbnb in terms of (commercial) gentrification. More precisely, we believe that rent gap theory is helpful to advance our understanding of why and how professionalized hosting has become an increasingly salient phenomenon and for centering the active role of Airbnb as a platform operator. We develop the notion of platform-scale rent gaps to explain the economic logic that drives Airbnb to professionalize its hosts and gentrify its platform. We then discuss Airbnb’s professionalization programs and tools, showing how some of its most substantial resources primarily cater to large-scale property managers who, like Airbnb itself, seek to identify and close rent gaps on the platform. This consequently creates the conditions for uneven business development opportunities among hosts, which we illustrate by focusing on how two different types of hosts have sought to professionalize their business in Berlin. Finally, we conclude by speculating on the relationship between the gentrification of the Airbnb platform and urban gentrification.

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