Home Sharing and Crime Across Neighborhoods: An Analysis of Austin, Texas

Published date01 March 2021
Date01 March 2021
Subject MatterArticles
CJR948947 40..52 Article
Criminal Justice Review
2021, Vol. 46(1) 40-52
Home Sharing and Crime
ª 2020 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
Across Neighborhoods:
DOI: 10.1177/0734016820948947
An Analysis of Austin, Texas
Jeffrey J. Roth1
Home sharing is an increasingly popular alternative to hotels, in which individuals rent all or a
portion of their residence as short-term accommodations for travelers. Criminological research has
examined the relationship between crime and visitors in a variety of contexts, but very few studies
have explored possible associations between home sharing and crime. Grounded in social
disorganization and routine activities theories, this study adds to the literature by evaluating the
relationship between home sharing density and several types of crime across census tracts in Austin,
Texas. The analysis also controls for the effects of tourism, alcohol establishments, and other
relevant sociodemographic factors. The results indicate that the sharing of entire units was not
associated with crime rates for any of the offense types. Levels of private rooms, however, were
positively associated with one of the offenses. Although far more research is needed on the topic,
these results are discussed in light of the other notable study on the topic to suggest early con-
clusions about home sharing and crime.
visitors, crime, home sharing, shared lodging, short-term rentals
The sharing economy is a recent economic trend in which individuals rent out or offer access to their
property for temporary use by others (Guttentag et al., 2018). The connection between sharer and
user is typically facilitated technologically through a website or phone app. For example, ride
sharing services like Uber and Lyft connect people seeking transportation with drivers willing to
provide a ride in their personal vehicle. Another component of the sharing economy is home sharing,
in which residents offer a room or entire residence as a short-term rental for travelers seeking
accommodation. Home sharing has become an increasingly popular form of accommodation over
the last decade (Guttentag et al., 2018), but reports of disorderly behavior by guests have also arisen.
One recent headline proclaimed “Rental nightmare: Airbnb host returns to find $20k in damages,
1 Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Slippery Rock University, PA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Jeffrey J. Roth, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 211 Spotts World Campus Building, Slippery Rock
University, Slippery Rock, PA 16057, USA.
Email: jeffrey.roth@sru.edu

crime scene in front yard” (Lewis, 2019); Mody et al. (2018) catalogued a range of news stories in
this vein. In addition to such anecdotal accounts, several criminological theories provide reason to
investigate how an influx of home sharing guests might shape crime and social control in a neigh-
borhood. Yet almost no research has empirically tested the association between home sharing and
crime, with a recent paper by Xu et al. (2019) as a prominent exception. This study is a step toward
remedying this deficiency in the literature that builds on the work of Xu and colleagues by studying a
different level of aggregation in a different location, and by using different crimes as outcomes.
Literature Review
At a theoretical level, both the social disorganization and routine activities perspectives are fre-
quently used to undergird research of neighborhood-level crime (Boivin & Felson, 2018). Both
theories contain premises which suggest that the presence of home sharing might affect neighbor-
hood crime and disorder. Social disorganization theory claims that neighborhood traits including
poverty, diversity, and mixed land use (e.g., businesses and homes together) feed residential instabil-
ity and hinder the community relationships necessary for collective problem-solving (Shaw &
McKay, 1942). Thus, per the theory, the place develops a criminal tradition that remains in place
even as residents cycle in and out of area. From this perspective, if home sharing replaces permanent
residents with a rotating cast of visitors, that may feed instability, limit social cohesion, and impede
residents’ ability to respond to crime and disorder. Some evidence about the association between
crime and vacation homes supports this possibility and is examined in more detail later in this article
(Stack, 1995).
Likewise, Cohen and Felson’s (1979) routine activities theory offers several possible ways that
home sharing might influence neighborhood crime. The theory predicts that there will be more crime
in neighborhoods with a greater supply of suitable targets and motivated offenders, and where
capable guardianship is weak. Home sharing may affect all three of these components. One, the
supply of suitable victims may be increased by the presence of visitors who often make appealing
crime targets (Boakye, 2010). Two, visitors’ presence may also draw motivated offenders to a place;
Mawby (2016) refers to tourist areas as “honeypots” for attracting offenders (p. 195). Additionally,
home sharing guests themselves may become offenders (Gurran & Phibbs, 2017), especially for
crimes related to tourists’ revelry such as disorder and public drunkenness. Three, regarding guar-
dianship, Reynald (2009) notes that in order for it to be effective, those providing it must not simply
be present but also able to monitor others’ behavior and intervene when necessary (Reynald, 2009).
She contends that intervention by guardians is facilitated by social cohesion and thus is crippled by
certain neighborhood traits such as residential instability (Reynald 2009; 2011). That is, the frequent
rotation of residents through a community can inhibit the development of the personal relationships
that undergird guardianship. It is possible that the presence of home sharing sites, with their rotation
of short-term guests, weakens neighborhood guardianship in a similar fashion.
Analogous Housing Types
Current research on home sharing and crime is quite limited, which makes it difficult to assess the
accuracy of theoretical expectations about associations with crime and disorder. Aside from a few
criminological studies of home sharing which will be examined shortly, one is left with flawed
analogs such as rental residents and seasonal housing. These are briefly examined below, but
ultimately the mixed evidence provided by these comparisons further supports the need for addi-
tional research to clarify the relationship between home sharing and crime.

Criminal Justice Review 46(1)
Home sharing guests are present in the area for much shorter periods than community residents.
In this sense, one possible source of evidence comes from studying other residents who have shorter
tenures—namely, rental residents. Obviously, there are some notable differences between renters
and home sharing guests which make this comparison flawed. For example, renters have a stake in
maintaining neighborhood standards (because it is their home community) which home sharing
guests do not. However, renters do tend to reside in their homes for shorter periods than home
owners (Coulson & Li, 2013; Dietz & Haurin, 2003; DiPasquale & Glaeser, 1998), and this more
frequent turnover may affect social organization and guardianship by weakening social cohesion.
Despite renters’ shorter tenures, the evidence is inconsistent about whether they feel less ownership
of the area, are less involved in the community, or are less willing to provide informal social control
and guardianship (McCabe, 2013). Overall, studies of renters suggest that relationship between
neighborhood tenure and guardianship-related factors is not a simple linear one.
The literature about seasonal and second homes provides another place to look for hints of the
possible effects of home sharing. Like home sharing sites, seasonal homes have impermanent
residents that cannot contribute to community cohesion like longer-term occupants. Interestingly,
Stedman (2006) reports that some seasonal residents own their second homes for long periods and
show attachment to their secondary communities. However, about two thirds of such residences are
unoccupied at least eight nights per year (the Census Bureau does not distinguish vacancy levels
beyond that threshold), and a substantial portion (49.5%) of owners live at least 150 miles from their
second home (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019a). Additionally, about 20% of seasonal homes are rented
out to guests at least eight nights per year (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019a). In sum, much seasonal
housing is sometimes vacant, and a moderate portion is rented to visitors; for these reasons, it is at
least somewhat comparable to home sharing.
A few studies have specifically considered the relationship between seasonal housing and crime.
Stack (1995) found that temporary residences were associated with significant increases in county-
level burglary rates in Michigan, even after controlling for structural factors like poverty and
unemployment. More recently, Roth (2019) examined a sample of large U.S. cities and found that
the portion of seasonal housing was not associated with rates of burglary, larceny, or robbery. One
explanation for the differing findings of these two studies is that Stack’s seasonal housing likely
included rural forms (e.g., lake houses, hunting cabins) that were uncommon in the large munici-
palities of Roth’s sample.
Home Sharing
The plausibility of...

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