Airbnb

Just like They Say, Nothing Good Ever Lasts (or, Why Airbnbs Are the Work of the Devil)

Someone asked a question at work today, Would you rather stay at a hotel or an Airbnb/Vrbo? That got me thinking about Airbnb.

When I first came across Airbnb, the concept seemed utterly insane to me. Pay a random person to sleep in one of the rooms in their house? No thank you, I’ve seen the murder shows on TV. Not today, Satan!

Same with Uber. Hop into a stranger’s car for a ride? You must be kidding.

But even the most absurd and unbelievable things can become normalized and begin to seem logical and rational. Even though they are still not at all logical or rational. But they’re normal now, right? So you go along.

We used Uber for the first time on a recent vacation, and we have stayed in many Airbnbs. So I went from an utterly disbelieving detractor to a user. That’s either hypocrisy or flexibility. I prefer to believe the latter.

swanky digs

But now I have to say that Airbnb – the company and the concept – is ruining the housing market in some places. Especially in tourist towns, and that’s where I happen to live, so I’m right in the middle of it.

Airbnbs have made it impossible to find a long-term rental here. Owners will not rent long term when they can make more money with short term rentals. Our friends ask us if we know of any cheap rentals, and we have to tell them that there aren’t any rentals, period, and “cheap” was taken off the table a long time ago.

Airbnb has changed the makeup of Joshua Tree and the surrounding towns. Changed the very fiber of the community. And it’s pushing the traditional desert people out and down the road. 20 years ago, I couldn’t pay people to come out here with me. Then the combination of Airbnb and Instagram turned everything on its head in a few short years.

I understand that everything changes, but it’s just disappointing. It feels like I’ve been one step ahead of the gentrifiers all my life.

First, when I was a teenager, they took over the downtown lofts that creative people used to be able to rent for very little money. Those are gone now from virtually every sizable city. Then I moved to Venice Beach, where the rent on a studio apartment 100 feet from the boardwalk was $400 a month. But that didn’t last long. Then up to Topanga Canyon. “Ha! Certainly, no millionaires will come all the way up here and buy up all the houses!” Well, I underestimated millionaires. Venice and Topanga are populated almost exclusively by millionaires and part-time residents now.

And Joshua Tree is on the same path. It feels inevitable. This was our refuge and our dream, but I can see that we won’t be able to afford to live here in a few years.

I keep thinking that the Airbnb market can’t possibly continue to grow. That there aren’t enough humans looking for a bed to keep all of them full and profitable, and eventually, those places will return to long-term renters. But so far, that isn’t happening. And it may not. Once a place flips, it rarely returns to what it was.


The title of this post is from an Iris Dement song, Our Town. It’s a heartbreaking tune that I first heard over the closing scene of the final episode of the late, great Northern Exposure TV show. It goes a little something like this:

And you know the sun’s settin’ fast
And just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover
‘Cause your heart’s bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can’t you see the sun’s settin’ down on our town, on our town
Goodnight

Up the street beside that red neon light
That’s where I met my baby on one hot summer night
He was the tender and I ordered a beer
It’s been forty years and I’m still sitting here

But you know the sun’s settin’ fast
And just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover
‘Cause your heart’s bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can’t you see the sun’s settin’ down on our town, on our town
Goodnight

It’s here I had my babies and I had my first kiss
I’ve walked down Main Street in the cold morning mist
Over there is where I bought my first car
It turned over once but then it never went far

And I can see the sun settin’ fast
And just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover
‘Cause your heart’s bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can’t you see the sun’s settin’ down on our town, on our town
Goodnight

I buried my Mama and I buried my Pa
They sleep up the street beside that pretty brick wall
I bring them flowers about every day
But I just gotta cry when I think what they’d say

If they could see how the sun’s settin’ fast
And just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover
‘Cause your heart’s bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can’t you see the sun’s settin’ down on our town, on our town
Goodnight

Now I sit on the porch and watch the lightning-bugs fly
But I can’t see too good, I got tears in my eyes
I’m leaving tomorrow but I don’t want to go
I love you my town, you’ll always live in my soul

But I can see the sun’s settin’ fast
And just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on I gotta kiss you goodbye but I’ll hold to my lover
‘Cause my heart’s ’bout to die
Go on now and say goodbye to my town, to my town
Can’t you see the sun’s settin’ down on my town, on my town
Goodnight, goodnight

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