The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

One Way to Fix Soaring Rent Prices

Just ban all AirBnBs in your city and anything similar. If someone wants to rent temporary rooms they can be regulated as a hotel.

I guarantee rent prices would crash overnight in most major cities.

A lot of condos and so on are now being built FOR people who want to AirBnB.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)

If you want to be a little kinder, make it so that people can AirBnB their primary residence and one other place and that’s it, and only individuals/sole proprietorships can AirBnB. If it’s really about some additional income, then great.

This all may seem harsh, but rental price increases in a lot of cities are out of control, and in many major cities there is now a housing bubble far more advanced than the bubble in 2008. AirBnB isn’t the only cause, but it’s a major one. Cities are for residents first. High rental prices destroy people’s lives, while having to pay a bit more to stay at a hotel is either a business expense or a trip you didn’t actually have to take, while residents need somewhere to live.

Make some laws forbidding people to own empty residences; don’t allow foreigners to own residences or locals to own residences that are held beneficially by foreigners, shut down foreign money flows, and you’ve got the rest of a solution.

Housing: Owned or rented, is a utility. Treating it as an investment or a way to get rich is intensely harmful, and because there is nothing that is quite as rentier has housing (even the word comes from renting), it is also really bad for the economy in the longer run.

AirBnB, like Uber and Lyft, is a leech. A parasite which harms its host.

Sensible countries and municipalities will put it down or put it on a leash.



Book Reviews & Fundraising Update


Open Thread


  1. Stirling S Newberry

    Or don’t and let the revolution come sooner.

  2. Bill Hicks

    Nothing to do with housing, but they need to ban those stupid scooter rentals as well. In Washington DC, they are now strewn about everywhere in the downtown area and riders usually leave them lying on the sidewalk, making it even more difficult to be a pedestrian than it already is. The number of accidents related to them is also soaring, some of which involve serious injury, which isn’t surprising since people just get on them without having any idea what they are doing.

  3. Mallam

    The best way to fix rent prices is to allow multi-family homes to be built anywhere residential housing is allowed to be built, and to tell the locals who don’t want the housing to be built that they don’t have a say in the matter. Kind of how governments operate with respect to highways. Do they let local wealthy people have veto over highways? Not really. Car culture is so ingrained that no one bats an eye. The fact is the only opponents of more housing being built are actively involved homeowners who don’t want their property values to go down because of increased supply, or an association of density with “not white”. Build more housing, remove parking requirements. Rents will fall. It’s also the only way we avoid climate catastrophe.

    Or you can prevent people from moving into your city. Not sure why that’s an attractive option, though.

  4. Hugh

    Habitability of urban centers has several elements. The total number of airbnbs can be limited, as well as the number per block or district. And as Ian suggests, they can be regulated: must be registered, must pay to be registered, etc. Any building in an urban area must be offset, include, be integrated with low and middle housing. And of course, there are rent controls. You also need stores, restaurants, entertainment centers for urban dwellers. Penalize heavily commercial building owners if they leave their storefronts vacant, and force them to use some percentage of their storefront space for these community retail needs.

  5. Joan

    I definitely agree here. Jane Jacobs was revolutionary for me. I’d spent all my life hating the suburbs and finally realized I just wanted to live in a well-structured, high-density city. Most cities in Europe have such efficient tram and subway access that they could restrict cars from the urban core and only benefit from it. I don’t think the community needs to put up with rich people having their toys (the taxes on cars in Europe are quite high) if it means tailpipes of idling cars are pointed at children in strollers on the sidewalk.

    I’ve heard the argument made that people who own houses on the edge of the city need more parking so they can drive to their jobs in the core. Sorry. I just can’t find sympathy for that. If you like your standalone house that much, then work from home. If you like your job that much, get on a tram and do the forty-five minutes, even if driving would take you fifteen minutes. Or join the high-density living with the rest of us. There are ways to live high density and still have space and privacy. Four meter ceilings make a small apartment feel huge, and the thick walls of 100+ year old European block buildings are really good for dampening sound and keeping the place cool in the summer. No AC, no car, and the businesses on the ground floors of each building tend to be local groceries, etc. Just the default way of living is pretty eco-friendly, and that’s not asking anyone about their personal politics regarding the climate.

    Furthermore, one friend who lives in a standalone house on the periphery said to me “We just buy everything on Amazon because it saves us a trip into the city.” So the families with more money to spend on stuff aren’t making the effort to go to the local shops still hanging on. Just in my neighborhood block there is a seamstress/tailor, a shoemaker, a bookbinder and a baker. Actual entrepreneurs serving the needs of their community, instead of minimum wage slaves at a Walmart. If suburbanism leads to people buying everything on Amazon, then it creates even more leeches. Got a bit heated there, but yes, I agree.

  6. EYup, everyone likes to talk about Revolution but no one has a plan for what’s after.

  7. Andy Sprott

    The primary driver here is interest rates. Total rental market size in Toronto is about 525 thousand. There are about 19 thousand AirBnB listings active in Toronto and non-resident ownership accounts for about 40 thousand units. Both are of sufficient scale to have noticeable effects on pricing but it\’s very unlikely that they are the primary driver, even given that smaller condos are disproportionately represented in both groups. The real driver is acquisition of properties for investment purposes – roughly half (48%) of new condo construction in Toronto was acquired by investors (figures unknown for new house builds and resales).

  8. Paul Harris

    After revolution comes….more of the same, eventually.
    Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

    We need a revolution in the way humans operate fundamentally.

  9. atcooper

    Short anecdote. With my car in the shop I was walking more and on occasion use the rental bikes strewn about my city. On one occasion the gps was telling me a bike was in the service lane of a freeway, and I thought maybe the reading was off, so I passed by that location and there was no bike. I poked around the area some and found the back plate of the manifold that houses the control board and ascertained the bike had been stolen. It made my night. People are incorrigible and that is ok with me.

  10. Joe

    Uber and lyft and, who don’t make money, are such big leeches.

    Vs. taxis where drivers have to pay $3000 up front for a month to ‘rent’ their taxi medallion from literal medalion lords, who often have links to organized crime and local political corruption . Can’t take a day off because your $3000 in the hole and end up making little. Not to mention how bad taxi services were before uber and lyft gave them competition.

    I would ask actual drivers what their economic situation is before condemning things like uber. It open my eyes when I did in BC Canada of all places.

  11. S Brennan

    “everyone likes to talk about Revolution but no one has a plan” – Ten Bears

    Most people who call for a revolution on Ian’s site, also call for the disarmament of the citizenry…this must amuse the monitoring authorities to no end. Imagine the laughter at CIA/FBI headquarters when their monitoring algorithms pick-up “we must have revolution but…before that time comes, our rifles must be confiscated by the authorities”. If I didn’t believe today’s “liberals” to be mental midgets, I’d swear that that those calling for “revolution” here were 3-letter plants.

    Let me add, I find the people who call for the dissolution of the United States ignorant of history, the fall of empires and…the dark age that follows. I’m not just talking about your schoolboy’s Rome here, it’s happened many times in history and no citizen of an empire lived better after. And those in the uppermost class, who’s asses sit upon golden thrones while Rome burns are at least as stupid as the plebs who call for the empire empire’s dissolution.

    Reformation is not the work of the [lessor of two evils]*. There is only one true “reformer” running in the [D] primary…and it sure isn’t Bernie-“folds like a cheap suit”-Sanders. BTW, Kamela’s media time is slowly increasing, while the Biden cloaking device remains on, look for her to appear as a “front-runner” when the smoke & mirrors are put away.

    *or the [evil of two lessors]

  12. O/T

    Gary Null, a lifelong activist, investigative journalist and founder of the progressive radio station (, is hiring a bunch of citizen investigative journalists. In his show, today, he also mentioned an office manager job and some project management gigs. His office is in NYC, but he may be open to remote workers (he didn’t say, one way or another).

    He gave a telephone number out, which I didn’t take note of. You should be able to track it down via the website. Also, the following is almost certainly the program I heard on the radio (he’s also been a longtime host on WBAI, a Pacifica radio station out of NYC):

  13. Mercenaries: Out to fill their pockets, no matter what it takes!
    Honestly! Why even bother going through the charade of “running a legitimate business” if they’re just going to make like hustlers, charlatans, snake oil salesmen, scam artists, con artists, embezzlers, and pick-pockets?

  14. StewartM


    Most people who call for a revolution on Ian’s site, also call for the disarmament of the citizenry

    Putting aside the fact that having reasonable controls on firearms isn’t by any stretch “disarmament”, I also would like to point out that there have been number of authoritarian regimes that did not bother much to restrict firearms to anyone–people in Marco’s Philippines, Hitler’s Germany (yes, despite the internet factoid in fact the Nazis *made guns easier to get for most people, not confiscated them* and in fact Hitler CAMPAIGNED on loosening restrictions!), Saudi Arabia, Castro’s Cuba, or Saddam’s Iraq–all these scored fairly high on personal gun ownership rates.

    Nor, mind you, did having strong gun control laws prevent revolutions–in Gaddafi’s Libya when the revolution came people simply took what was in government stores. And Egypt after the revolution loosened gun restrictions.

    The point these examples illustrates is what is really being overlooked about the 2nd Amendment and its ‘well-regulated militia’. That is the fact, as the Founders knew all too well from personal experience, ‘a bunch of people having personal firearms’ does not constitute a military force. And the militia WAS supposed to be a viable military force. From the very start in fact, guns were so rare that Congress had to buy them to equip most of the state militias, especially in the West and South.

    Now, it seems from the data that what authoritarian regimes simply cannot tolerate are strong, independent labor movements–I can think of no exceptions. And to what extent crime correlates to the availability of guns, the fear of crime leads to the enactment of rather draconian counter-measures: police practices, punishments, and sentencing, which is a pretty convenient starting point for any would-be authoritarian.

  15. StewartM

    No Uber, No Lyft, no AirBnb for me. We already have reasonably affordable, sustainable, alternatives; no reason to go to something non-sustainable to save a few bucks.

    But I wonder how much of this gig economy stuff is the result of the willful driving down or real wages for the past 40 years, plus the imposition of new costs generally not taking into account by the CPI, such that ordinary people feel either compelled to save a dollar here or there, or make an extra dollar here or there? How much of this would disappear if wages had kept up with productivity?

  16. S Brennan

    StewartM; what an amazing set of lies you choose to tell, one whopper right after the other; this one was a real topper though:

    “Nor, mind you, did having strong gun control laws prevent revolutions–in Gaddafi’s Libya when the revolution came people simply took what was in government stores.” – StewartM

    Revolution my ass. What a liar.

    You can’t possibly claim that you are too stupid, or ignorant…the regime change neocolonialist bragged* about their funding/training/arming of jihadies…not to mention the US/NATO bombing the shit out of Libya’s infrastructure for eight months.



  17. Willy


    But before all that, there’s nothing wrong with gently coaxing the generally ignorant, the faith based reasoner and the learned helpless (pretty much the majority) to take a break from their positions for a while. Speaking in theoreticals, hypotheticals… overuse of Marxist or humanist phraseology probably wouldn’t be beneficial. I’d keep it simple and personal. There are so many concrete daily life examples of capitalistic failure to choose from, that this should be pretty easy.

  18. Tom

    S Brennan

    NATO Bombing didn’t change the overall facts on the ground which was Qaddafi having half his army desert and join the rebels who also saw elements of Qaddafi’s Airforce defect to them.

    Qaddafi was well on his way to defeat, absent an intervention in his favor by Putin which wasn’t in the cards as Putin gave UN ok and didn’t exercise his Veto. Qaddafi was already paying Tuaregs to come and fight for him as many of his officers where abandoning him.

    NATO intervention, with UN Authorization, sped up Qaddafi’s defeat, but did not cause it and in fact shortened the war.

    Afterwards, Libya actually had peace for 2 and a half years before the Sissi Regime in Egypt began funding Haftar in a bid to make Libya a puppet State and started the second civil war which is far less deadly than the Syrian Civil War with less than 50.000 dead on all sides and 98% of them are actual combatants.

  19. S Brennan

    Tom; go read your moronic comments about Syria from 2014. Oh you don’t go far; Ian re-posted them two posts ago in:

    Why the Economy Is Bad for Most People and How To Make It Better
    2019 June 10

    Honestly Tom, why do you bother, this isn’t the type of blog where you are going to get away with lies without push-back. Doesn’t Rachel Maddow have a blog where you can spew away without ever having somebody call you down on your bull$#!t?

  20. nihil obstet

    Back to the housing topic:

    Government action is necessary to maintain viable cities, by supporting a sustainable mix of housing options. The action can be zoning, building public housing, helping community land trusts develop, and probably a number of other options I haven’t thought of.

    Buildings constructed to today’s standards last 40 to 50 years. Today’s flashy, desirable option is going to be a blight for a long time before the private market redevelops it. I live in a growing city, which everyone thinks is great — apparently, you shouldn’t move to a municipality you like, but to one that will keep getting bigger the way you want it to? And of course the downtown areas are gentrifying. That means developers who pay enormous sums for land and then argue for denser development on the grounds that that’s the only way the land can be developed profitably. So we’re getting multi-story buildings of expensive one-bedroom apartments with no open grounds. This makes sense for the developer. They’re highly profitable. However, the displacement of families (if you have children, you don’t really want to pay high rent for a one-bedroom living space on the third floor), makes school planning difficult, with parents objecting to having their children assigned to downtown schools which no longer have enough children living nearby. The neighborhood barber is replaced by a high cost salon, and so on. The social infrastructure changes.

    The problem is, these changes are physically baked in for a generation and a half. Long before then, the area will have become less “happening”. Without a sustainable mix of types of housing and services, the city is constantly dealing with physical and social problems, and coming back from deterioration is very hard when the social infrastructure has withered away. But the private market is always going for the profit this year, not the continued vitality of the area.

  21. willy

    I’m running into price gouging for ‘essential’ services, everywhere. According to libertarian economic theory, price gouging automatically produces more reasonable competing alternatives. Yet in reality the competition which should be keeping prices reasonable, or at least offering a spread of cost options, doesn’t happen. As a general rule the more essential the service, the worse this is. With housing, the profit motive benefiting the few does not result in benefits for the many.

    Much of this price gouging for essential services seems directly related to housing costs. For example, there’s no sane reason a hack like myself should be making (saving) $200/hr doing his own auto work. I use primitive tools, jacking system, and have significant learning curve time. But I have a few things increasing numbers of people don’t have: a garage, some time, and the confidence acquired from years of do-it-myself home maintenance. What used to be easy options for many, is becoming a luxury for a few, and auto mechanics take full advantage.

  22. I don’t know what the story is in Canada, but in the US real estate is exempt from money laundering tracking laws. These buyers have been taking high-end condos etc. out of the market and leaving them empty, which:
    1) puts pressure all the way down, and
    2) the high-end neighborhoods don’t support street retail.

  23. StewartM


    What Tom said….after the Libyan military went to pieces, their guns and ammo was taken. How/why they went to pieces is really not important insofar as my point, which is that when something like this happens, whether or not their previously was any right to private gun ownership does not matter, as everyone and his brother-in-law will be soon be toting an AK-47 and other military weapons in the streets.

    It is something very close to a law of revolution that revolutions don’t succeed as long as the military/repressive force of the state is still intact. The military/repressive force of the state must first be either defeated in war by an external opponent, or the state has to become so bankrupted it can no longer pay them or supply these forces loyal, and/or they have to go over–partially or fully–to the revolutionaries. If none of these things happen, revolutions nearly always fail (I can think of no exceptions now, but maybe I’m forgetting one). I once used the example of the Soviet partisans in WWII as an example of how the deck is stacked in a fight of irregular forces versus regular army forces–the partisans had every advantage that an insurgency could ask for–and yet the Germans usually were able to handle them with 2nd- and 3rd-rate troops and no partisan complex ever survived a determined attack.

    I also note you could not dispute my other examples. People who think that clutching their private firearms makes them a credible threat to would-be despots are deluding themselves. In Hitler’s Germany many of those freedom-protecting, liberty-loving, despot-hating gun owners voted Nazi, because Nazis promised to loosen gun restrictions on citizens (hint; Jews lost citizenship). Did that even slow Nazi totalitarianism one iota?

    I see some of the same attitude among many of the more strident gun rights advocates, the only right they yap about is their perceived gun rights–all the other rights can go into the shredder. Recently, the government has been setting up concentration camps, for migrants, and I’m not hearing a peep from them (hint again: when the Nazis set up their camps, not even the Jews went into them, it was other “undesirables” the Nazis thought it safe to jail without raising too much fuss).

  24. Andy Sprott

    New data released for Vancouver – fully 46% of condos (not new build, *condos* full-stop) in the Vancouver core are investor owned (49% of Vancouver A [i.e., UBC / Endowment Lands]). So yeah, interest rates.

    AirBnB and foreign ownership are symptoms, not the primary driver.

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