No, Urban Tech Startups Aren't Transforming All American Cities
If you live in a mid-sized city like Akron, the battles over Airbnb and Uber have likely had little impact on your life.
Few issues in urban tech today are as controversial as the impact of short-term rental startups like AirBnB and VRBO on neighborhood housing. The battle lines are clear: Do these startups help residents earn much-needed extra dollars on the side, or are they so constricting housing supply and raising rents so high that locals are forced to move out? Billions of dollars—and the livelihoods of vibrant communities—are at stake in this debate, and regulatory battles royale have already been waged in cities like Washington, DC, and Austin. Of course, urban housing isn’t the only bedrock element of city life undergoing rapid and controversial change: Public officials have wrestled for years with how to handle ride-hailing’s destabilizing effect on taxi service, and potentially on public transit as well.
If you live in a place like San Francisco or New York where urban tech startups (and, ahem, national media) are concentrated, these conflicts seem to be reshaping cities throughout the country. But if you dig a little deeper, it’s clear that’s hardly the case. With fewer than twenty new homes built in a city of 200,000 last year, Akron recently abated property taxes for new housing as a way to prop up the construction market. Many of Akron’s leaders would love to have the problem of excessive housing demand that Airbnb has allegedly created.