Words By Zoe Zorka
Detroit can’t seem to catch a break these days.
After decades upon decades of being known primarily as a city filled with decay, blight, and crime, Detroit’s image has finally started to bounce back as the city’s economic growth brings new opportunities for its residents. For many Detroiters, this has included the opportunity to not only rent out their homes via the popular home-sharing app, Airbnb, but also to use their homes as a base for out-of-towners to truly experience all of the culture and experience Detroit has to offer from an insider’s perspective.
But the city of Detroit is quickly putting a kabob on that with their recent decision to ban Airbnb for homes in the R1 or R2 zones (single-family residential districts and two-family residential districts). Essentially, the ordinance bans the majority of non-apartment or loft residences.
Airbnb, which expressed disappointment in the ruling in an official statement, has been incredibly successful in Detroit with approximately 430 active Airbnb hosts within the city limits earning an approximate $5.2 million in 2017.
Nichole Johnston, a longtime Detroit resident, regularly rents out her newly refurbished downtown home via the popular site and believes that it gives people from out of town a better glimpse into the city life and culture:
“They can see what Detroit’s really like. They don’t just go to the tourist places- they can walk to more local spots and see what the city is all about.”
While the city has released no official statement as to the reasoning behind their ruling, many locals point out the overwhelming number of boutique hotels as well as major hotels and conference centers that are in the early phases of construction or will be opening soon.
“Hotel are nice, but if you really want to see Detroit, you should try to see it from a local’s perspective.”
Johnston believes that people who have stayed at her Airbnb have had frequented neighborhood restaurants (most of which were around long before the gentrification process began), patronized local bars and music venues, and supported more local small businesses than people who stay at major chain hotels.
“Why would you want to stay at a chain hotel and stick to a few heavily-populated blocks and tourist attractions?” she asks.
After all, that’s what Chicago is for.