As Airbnb Plans Hub In Atlanta, Executive Discusses Hiring Locally, City’s Affordable Housing Issue

On WABE’s “All Things Considered,” Laphonza Butler, Airbnb’s public policy director for North America, said Atlanta beat out other competitors for the new hub because of its strong educational infrastructure.

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San Francisco-based Airbnb says Atlanta is about to be its East Coast tech hub and soon expects to start hiring from the city’s local talent pool.

The move comes on the heels of a similar expansion announcement from Seattle-based Microsoft. Both expansions are set to make camp within the city of Atlanta, and both have prompted community meetings and concerns over Atlanta’s ongoing affordable housing crisis, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airbnb’s public policy director for North America, Laphonza Butler, spoke about the issue with WABE’s “All Things Considered” host Jim Burress.

“Housing affordability is surely an issue that a number of cities are figuring out how to really grapple with,” Butler told Burress shortly after the announcement.

“There are a number of places around the country where Airbnb hosts have committed to being part of the solution.”

Butler said the specifics have to be worked out in the Atlanta context. But the company has promised to donate any economic incentives or tax breaks associated with its new location back to the city, for community impact projects.

Butler said Atlanta beat out other competitors because of its strong educational infrastructure for leading the next generation of engineers, computer scientists, etc., especially institutions like the city’s historically Black colleges and universities committed to specifically supporting communities of color.

Butler also cited that last year, Atlanta Airbnb hosts earned more than $30 million, despite the coronavirus pandemic hurting the tourism and travel industry.

Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.