September 8, 2013

Renting out rooms generates backlash

The growing online peer-to-peer marketplace runs into opposition from business owners, city officials and neighbors.

By WALTER HAMILTON Los Angeles Times

(Continued from page 1)

homeowners with rooms to rent
click image to enlarge

Hope Arnold prepares her bedroom in her home in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles for a paying guest. She says renting out the bedroom through the website Airbnb has “been a financial savior for me.”

Photos by Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times

homeowners with rooms to rent
click image to enlarge

Arnold set up a patio area outside the room she rents out for guests to enjoy. Critics in her neighborhood say some Airbnb hosts are running virtual hotels that alter the community feel.

The potential for bigger profits has prompted some landlords to transform long-term apartments into short-term Airbnb units.

That pushes up rents of remaining apartments and squeezes out young or low-income people, said Neal Gorenflo, co-founder of Shareable.net.

"We're in favor of people occasionally renting out their homes and bringing in extra income and financial security, but not doing it to the extent where you start to hurt the local housing stock," Gorenflo said.

VIEWED AS A NECESSITY

Airbnb hosts say they're just trying to stay afloat.

Andrea Hutchman turned to Airbnb last year after she and her husband, both actors, had trouble paying their mortgage. Acting work was sporadic, and part-time jobs were low-paying and tough to get, she said.

Rental demand has been strong for the one-bedroom guesthouse in their backyard.

"We're absolutely doing it to pay the bills," she said.

That rings true for Arnold as she stands in the bedroom of her hillside home changing sheets.

Business at the R Bar in Los Angeles, which Arnold co-owns, sank during the 2008 financial crisis and is still far below its peak. That coincided with a huge jump in her mortgage payments.

Arnold took a variety of part-time jobs, eventually stringing together waitress stints and other gigs that stretched from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

"I was working all the time," Arnold said. "You can only put your head down and deny that you're tired for so long."

That changed when a friend told her about Airbnb a year ago.

Arnold already had a long-term renter occupying her main house, and then started renting out the bedroom of the back guest cottage for less than $100 a night.

"This is a cute little woodsy bungalow in the hills of L.A., not the Beverly Hills Hotel," Arnold wrote on Airbnb. "If you want clean lines and perfect cleanliness, this is not the place."

Arnold concedes it's "strange to rent part of your own house out." But, she added, "if you can wrap your head around it, it can literally save your home or feed your children."

 

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