NAACP Economic Fair Housing Manager Jacquelyne D. Ward-Richardson met with Urban League of Greater Miami President and CEO T. Willard Fair on how to roll-out a plan for Airbnb to Black homeowners.
BY CAROLYN GUNISS
In about 45 days or so, the NAACP is expected to rollout a campaign in Miami to encourage black homeowners to become Airbnb hosts.
NAACP Economic Fair Housing Manager Jacquelyne D. Ward-Richardson said the roll-out is the fruition of an agreement NAACP formed last July with then-embattled Airbnb, which was under fire because some of its hosts were accused of discriminating against Black users.
Airbnb is a digital platform that matches travelers with homeowners who have short-term rentals. Homeowners agree to rent either space in their homes or the whole house to people for a set fee, of which they get to keep 97 percent of the income.
NAACP will be encouraging black homeowners in Miami to open up their homes to hosting as the civil rights organization believes that the potential rental income is an economic opportunity.
Ward-Richardson was in Miami Feb. 7-9 and attended a series of community outreach meetings.
In addition to explaining the benefits of the partnership, she was down to find out the potential pitfalls to what she called a done deal between NAACP and Airbnb.
But when members of the Miami-Dade NAACP heard about the plan and that the chapter will run point after the rollout, they wanted to slow the process down.
So does Airbnb apparently.
Airbnb spokesman Benjamin Breit said Monday a rollout in Miami has not been finalized and that Miami will not be the first market of the rollout. He said a rollout in 45 days is unlikely.
“How can it possibly be? We have some differences on some high-level items,” said Briet.
Briet said there were some preliminary meetings that have Airbnb excited but it seems “something got lost in translation” as to the timeline.
You wouldn’t know it by the jam-packed itinerary Ron Butler, of the 79th Street Corridor Initiative had for Ward-Richardson.
The meetings were with community leaders, the business owners, Black commissioners from Miami and the Miami-Dade County and several pastors. Missing from the schedule: the mayor of the largest Black-concentrated municipality in Miami-Dade, Oliver Gilbert.
At a meeting Thursday, Feb. 8 with T. Williard Fair, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami, Ward-Richardson heard about the drawbacks of hosting strangers in Liberty City and Miami in general.
Fair said in the past, identifying a concentration of Black residents was easy. But now that the community is fragmented that will be a more challenging task.
“Black homeowners have integrated into larger communities. They have left the inner cities behind,” Fair said. Another potential problem: the façade that people don’t need extra income in Miami.
“People are going to think, others are going to know I need help if I rent out my house to strangers.”
He was concerned for the safety of strangers in some areas and said sprucing up of neighborhoods would be necessary.
Ward-Richardson said homeowners could use the extra income to fix their homes, pay their mortgages or send their kids to college.
Those homeowners who chose to renovate could use Black vendors, which extends the economic impact in the community.
SBA Assistant District Director/Marketing & Outreach Althea Harris said her office stands ready to offer loans to homeowners who need money to prepare their homes for guests.
But the Economic chair of the local NAACP Darryl Holsendolph said there are too many unknowns. He wondered how will Airbnb guarantee a 20-percent participation of black vendors in the area. Ward-Richardson said black vendors will be added to the general Airbnb vendor list.
Holsendolph wants a meeting with Airbnb. Seems he will get his wish, according to Breit, who says no rollout can start until the local chapter is onboard.
“We have to have an agreement with the local chapter and that hasn’t happened,” Breit said. “We need to have some more meetings to make sure the local chapter is onboard.”
NAACP agreed last summer to take 20 percent of the revenues generated by black hosts, help Airbnb diversify its staff and its supplier list. Meanwhile Airbnb gets additional hosts in its database.
Airbnb discovered the value in having hosts in “majority-minority neighborhoods back in 2016. A study of seven communities where black and brown people are concentrated – Washington, DC; Orleans Parish (New Orleans); Baltimore City; Cook County (Chicago); New York City; Suffolk County (Boston); and Philadelphia County (Philadelphia) – revealed a high use level of Aribnb. Hotels, Airbnb asserts, usually underserve those areas. The study showed that Airbnb hosts earned up to $7,100 in through hosting.
But as Airbnb was gathering these positive data, black travelers started complaining on social media about their negative experiences, using the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.
People with black-sounding names couldn’t find available rentals or some hosts reacted inappropriately when their black guest arrived. Since, Airbnb has reduced the emphasis on pictures and have a feature called direct book, which allows a traveler to just to put in the parameters of the trip and book with the first available place. It has also asked all its hosts to agree not to discriminate or face being booted.
NAACP has been watching the process and believes Airbnb is moving in the right direction.
The county and the state make money, too. Miami-Dade is one of 39 Florida counties that have an agreement Airbnb. The digital company collects hotel taxes and remits to state and local governments. Since the agreement began in April 2017, Airbnb has remitted $3.3 million on behalf of hosts to Miami-Dade.
On Monday, Airbnb Florida said that it had collected and remitted over $45.7 million in tax revenue to Florida state and local governments on behalf of its hosts in 2017, up from $20 million in 2016. The company said even with a 73 percent growth in Florida, data suggest that the vacation rental platform is not competing with hotels, since hotels show the same type of occupancy rates, prices and revenues. Airbnb says the data suggests that the growth is due to a “new demographic of tourists …who are less able to afford hotels, those who desire to stay in neighborhoods or cities that lack hotels, and families who prefer to vacation together under one roof.”
After publication of this article, Breit said “We want to spread the benefits of home sharing to communities of color. That’s why we reached out to NAACP and why we’re excited to partner with them. We very much hope to bring the partnership to South Florida along with the Miami branch, and we will keep the public notified once a timeline is set.”