The Airbnb-ification of Tenochtitlán, Mexico City

Originally published at: The Airbnb-ification of Tenochtitlán, Mexico City | Boing Boing


The sad thing is, capitalism doesn’t have to be this way. Lately it mostly is, with all “growth” coming via wealth transfer upwards (either to CEOs, or as in this story’s example, from less well-off locals to gentrifiers).

If capitalism instead focuses on growing the entire economy (which mostly happens via investment in womens’ rights, supporting innovation, diversity, government-supported research, anti-trust enforcement, and most importantly free trade), then everybody wins. The rising tide lifts all boats.

This is why most of us are better off than our grandparents or great grandparents right now. It’s from the form of capitalism that focuses on growing the entire economy (which America used to practice). Everything else is rent-seeking, which always results in upward wealth transfer. The wealthy will always engage in the latter if permitted to, because it’s the path of least resistance for short term growth.

This is why government regulation is so important to healthy capitalism. Without it, everything devolves into rent-seeking very quickly. It’s what Reagan did, and it’s why America once again has Gilded Age inequality.


While better regulation of the economy should lead to a more equitable distribution of wealth, you’ll still need more comprehensive public services to lift up the most vulnerable and at risk populations, and that includes a significant amount of public housing. If a “steady state” of a just society can be achieved, perhaps economic management would be sufficient to maintain it, but we’ll never get there with that toolkit alone.


Maybe the whole concept of constant growth is at the core of the problem. That’s central to capitalism. The early part of the Cold War, where that growth benefited more workers and capital was somewhat controlled rather than in the driver’s seat is, I’m afraid, the anomaly when it comes to capitalism. The biggest restraint there was the fact that the capitalist system had competition. Once that ended, all bets were off and it was back to rank exploitation and growth at the expense of humanity. Even during this “golden age” of all boats being lifted, there was STILL plenty of examples of exploitation to be considered. People like Rachel Carson noted just how bad capitalism was for the environment, and that did not stop because we had strong unions. And Black Americans (and POC in general) and women and the LGBQT+ community still struggled with basic rights during this era.

I don’t think we can ever get a really humane, healthy, and just system under capitalism. I see no historical evidence for that, as any and all positive changes came from people putting pressure on it from the outside, not from within these systems.


I spend a few months a year at an Airbnb in Costa Rica. A couple of years ago I asked my host how it impacted rents in the town I stay in. She said that there’s a basic understanding amongst the country’s landlords that there are separate market rates for the tourists and for the locals (hosts also have to register their properties with the country’s tourism board). There is some division on the neighbourhood level, but on the municipal level you have a mix of incomes and national origins living in close proximity and sharing the same civic infrastructure – without the open antipathy you see in other countries.

The situation differs from Mexico City or Venice or Barcelona etc. in that Costa Rica’s main towns and cities (with the exception of downtown San Jose) are almost all completely centred around some form of tourism to begin with. Employers there want workers in that industry to live close by rather than being pushed or gentrified out into long commutes, which means some kind of arrangement has to be arrived at to keep housing affordable.

For big desirable cities where tourism is one of many industries, though, there’s no question there would have to be more formal regulation to force a similar situation on landlords. These cities would still be expensive, and landlords would doubtless engage in all kinds of shenanigans to work around the regs. However, properly enforced rules might permit services like Airbnb to operate in them without impacting local housing costs as they currently do.

It definitely leads to the almost self-destructive behaviour of companies like Airbnb that engage in zero-sum battles every time regulations are proposed by cities to accommodate both tourists and local residents.


Airbnb has been quite problematic around my area, as well. Finding a rental as a local is very, very hard these days.

I guess they did a study to try and better understand the impact of it. Somehow, the main takeaway by the city was the folks operating Airbnbs never planned to open up their units to long-term rentals, so it’s not really a problem. I was stunned that they looked at all the data and never made the connection to the fact that owners may not have intended to rent them out that way, but they were still sucking those units out of the market, making it nearly impossible for people actually living here to find a place to live.

Last I heard, there was basically 0% availability for rental units. Locals are struggling or just straight up leaving the area because of it.


same down here from Key Largo to Key West, airbnb rents to tourists for big $$$ and service workers (imagine KW with no bartenders, touristy trinket dealers or hospitality staff) have no place to live affordably. that is a hell of a long commute from Miami.
closer to the mainland, Key Largo is also priced out of rental market for service workers, teachers, fire and hospital workers because property owners can make bank renting short-term to tourists and snowbirds. top it off with the county repeatedly turning down multi-unit affordable living space projects in favor of large single-family dwellings.
damn NIMBYs.
where i live, there are two airbnb houses on this street alone, one right next door. Monroe County thinks this is all good because that sweet, sweet tourist buck. they continue even as it pushes out locals who simply cannot afford to work here due to the total lack of affordable housing.
when the small restaurants and bars close down because their staff cannot live here and cannot afford the commute from the mainland, what will those spendy tourists do? when my barber or the checkers, baggers and stockers at Publix move away, what do i do? i supported and voted for the multi-unit affordable housing every time it came up. NIMBYs will keep renting out their second homes for short-term visitors and fuck it all up.


100% agree! I didn’t mean to imply that well-regulated capitalism is all we need. The real success of the middle class that America had was largely due to social programs (that have all since been stripped away). Social democracies like Canada and most of Europe are more equitable and have higher quality of life for a reason.

Yah, I would agree with that. Maybe it comes from a fixation on the stock market as the grand oracle of all things. When you fixate on that Vegas For The Rich, then the only good business is an insanely fast-growing one. Nobody cares about the stability or community value of a company.


Exactly… I like to recommend this book to folks, as it makes the argument that treating the markets like a natural force that we must be put in the service of rather than markets being understand as a social construct that should serve the needs of people lead to very, very bad things (in this case, it contributed to things like the Great Depression and then the Holocaust)…

I’d argue that since the 70s and the advent of neo-liberalism, this kind of thinking is back, and as destructive as ever. It seems to come along with fascism, since the destruction done by “market-centered” thinking destroys so much with it’s short-term thinking, that it leaves people searching for answers and vulnerable to the appeals made by fascist (there’s also the argument that fascism is imperialism turned inward). The fact that since capitalism has become a major force in world affairs, this tends to be the predominant mode of affairs rather than the mid-century more moderated and regulated capitalism that did spread growth out for a larger number of people (while also continuing with various kinds of environmental, cultural, and social destruction).

The long view seems to indicate that while some good came out of the rise of capitalism, so did a whole lot of bad…


Perhaps not, but one musn’t overlook.


Thanks, I was going to note that. Wonder what it is that it does not mean!


Here when they banned Air bnb during the pandemic homelessness and the rental crisis ended overnight.

Ban it to fuck.


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