The housing crisis in the Poconos is exacerbated by Air BnB and the pandemic, leaving many displaced from their homes.
There was a time when people could find rentals and successfully obtain them. That time has come to a close as Air Bnb (of the online vacation rental/lodging industry) tightens its vice-grip on Americans and Pocono locals alike. Whether you are a millennial looking for a rental/home or someone of the lower/lower middle class, finding a rental is nearly impossible. the impact of a multi-billion dollar industry has affected your life.
This industry has evolved into somewhat of a goliath that is decimating the rental/housing market in ways that will change the lives of Pocono Locals and those in other States/municipalities. As of 4/15/2022 (according to AirDna.com numbers subject to change on future dates), vacation rental demand rose to a staggering peak of 66% in the Poconos, with unprecedented rental growth (roughly 600 active rentals with a 10% quarterly growth) through vendors such as Air BnB and Vrbo fueling this crisis.
The pandemic has played a huge factor in this. A single-person household has at least an option to rent a room (which is the prevalent means for housing right now), families with children are, which is an aphorism from days gone by and still holds Since 2020, many from out of state have sought refuge from this tenacious virus in the Pocono Mountains. While considered a safe haven to outsiders, it was a peril to long-time residents of the Poconos. The incursion created by those coming in from outside areas has influenced the residential real estate market to shift to vacation rentals and short-term leasing at staggering rates (with an average stay accumulating to 2 nights at a rate of $314 a night). Rentals have a 55% average occupancy rate, roughly half the time is not even vacated; while we have people who are living on the streets unable to provide themselves with adequate shelter. Companies often look at people as numbers and don’t concern themselves with how they affect the lives of others. It’s easy to see why this industry prioritizes financial boons over people when the revenue for the Poconos BnB market (which is on average $4,200 monthly with an all-time high this year of $7,384 monthly) when landlords/real estate owners went from profiting hundreds of dollars to thousands.
Due to overwhelming demand for rentals, industry giants such as Better Homes and Gardens/Tom Wilkins & associates don’t even have listings anymore and require you to contact their office directly. Even sites such as craigslist are bare, and people are pivoting towards room rentals and efficient apartments. Leaving many homeless and displaced or paying exorbitant amounts for a room (upwards of $1,000+) for a single room. Sizes and amenities vary from room to room. While those who are of a single-person household have at least an option to rent a room (which is the prevalent means for housing right now), families with children are the ones left to completely fend for themselves. People such as Christopher Supino (along with his 2 disabled parents and a dog) of Stroudsburg were displaced from their long time family home due to a fire and are unable to recover from the detriment of the housing crisis caused by the likes of Air BnB and Vrbo; To this day they are still living in their car and barely made it through the hibernal hell that is the Pocono winter.
Homelessness is at an all-time high, with nearly 1000 people in Monroe County alone sleeping on the streets, unable to find any source of shelter. Although the task of helping these people seems daunting (due to the number of resources required), there is still hope. The Wesleyan Church (Monroe County’s only homeless shelter, which has been in operation for 7 years as of today) has been doing its diligent duty to help those in need. This shelter has a total of 21 men’s beds divided into two separate rooms and 9 female beds for those looking for a safe place to rest their heads. Equipped with a large kitchen and hot coffee to warm the body and spirit, this facility which is operated by a staff of 20 volunteers, has been a Godsend to those without the means to survive. Many of these destitute individuals (roughly 50%) eventually transfer to other shared housing programs and room rentals.
Former volunteer for a local shelter Homeless & Housing, Casey Thompson, says her experience at the shelter helped her more completely understand the scale of the issue.
“I’m honestly surprised to hear that there are only about a thousand people homeless in Monroe County,” said Thompson. “When I volunteered there, it was always full, always busy. They’d limit how long people could stay because we just didn’t have enough beds. I can’t even imagine how bad it’s gotten with COVID. Seeing new faces is always sad, but seeing regulars was even sadder, I think. For a lot of these people, it becomes like a cycle, and they just can’t break out of it.”
Money is the root of all evil which is an aphorism from days gone by, still holds in many cases. It corrupts those who have and crushes those who have not. While profits are at an all-time high for real estate owners, those who are renters are deeply affected by the wounds of Covid-19 and the Air BnB market trend of vacation rentals, leaving many hopeless.
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