January 6, 2021 is a day that will live in infamy for D.C. residents. The Siege of the U.S. Capitol building by supporters of the twice-impeached President Donald Trump left a trail of anger and anxiety in its wake.
In the aftermath of the riot that left five people dead, local residents were dismayed to learned that many of the out-of-town insurrectionists had spent the night in right here in our community. Several residents on the Petworth listserv noticed that local Airbnb hosts had unwittingly rented their homes to people who participated in the rally.
Knowing that some of the rioters brought guns, bombs, molotov cocktails and even a gallows to our city is a harrowing thought. Community members became concerned that the violence would return during the upcoming Inauguration of President Biden next week. Multiple conversations sprung up on neighborhood social media sites.
Mt. Pleasant resident James Benson started the Don’t Rent DC movement to encourage hosts not to rent their homes out next week. Several hundred homeowners throughout Shepherd Park, Brightwood, Takoma and Petworth use the home-sharing apps on a regular basis. Though most respondents supported the idea of shutting down rentals for the sake of protecting the community, some hosts were not eager to give up the extra money that can be earned during an event like this.
New Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George amplified the campaign on Twitter:
DC! Avoid renting out rooms on January 17-20. There’s no way to guarantee that your guests are not coming to incite violence. The potential threats publicized by news outlets are very alarming. Please protect your neighbors and the District from more attacks. #DontRentDC https://t.co/cGCDGQhA8d
— Janeese Lewis George (@Janeese4DC) January 11, 2021
Today, the campaign bore fruit when Airbnb announced that they are cancelling all D.C. metro area reservations during the week of the Inauguration (Washington Post: Airbnb to cancel all D.C. reservations during inauguration week). Company CEO Brian Chesky announced via Twitter that the company will refund anyone who made a reservation and will compensate hosts in full for the lost revenue.
We have canceled all Airbnb reservations in DC for Inauguration week.
Guests will be issued a full refund and hosts will still be paid in full for these canceled bookings. https://t.co/K67zaRqdKJ
— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) January 13, 2021
Most residents seem to be pleased with the action that Airbnb has taken to address a major safety concern while protecting the interests of their rental partners. So far, there is no word on whether other short-term rental companies like Vrbo will follow suit.