As Remote Workers Flock to Mexico City, Airbnb and Housing Prices Soar

MEXICO CITY – Karina Franco’s ornate Art Deco building in the historic center of Mexico City has long been the center of a downtown lifestyle, home to families of artists and activists, and supporting an ecosystem of street vendors.

But as the pandemic upsets office standards, a wave of telecommuters from around the world flocked to Mexico City, the country’s capital. The influx of foreigners has not yet slowed, causing housing costs to rise, residents to relocate and improving the texture of neighboring areas.

In August, Ms. Franco and other tenants in her building were informed by the landlord that their lease would not be renewed. Several units appeared on Airbnb early on — at four times the monthly rent — and new, mostly English-speaking neighbors have now filled the hallways.

“At first, I was shocked,” said Franco, 47, a migrant rights worker who found a new apartment in another part of the city. “Then I felt angry.”

Since the pandemic, Mexico City has become a leading global hub for expats who are not bound from their offices by a work-from-home policy and attracted by the comforts that the level of employment offers. wages paid in dollars or euros are affordable.

Between January and October, more than 9,500 permits were issued to Americans allowing them to temporarily reside in Mexico City, according to federal immigration statistics, nearly double the 5,400 permits issued during the same period last year. 2019. Many others are entered on tourist visas, which allow them to work from Mexico for up to six months as long as they are paid a salary abroad.

This influx benefits business owners in areas popular with expats, and hosts capitalize on record demand for long-term stays on platforms like Airbnb. It has also given Mexicans room to earn extra income amid soaring inflation.

But the spike has shaken an already tight housing market, threatening to create large swaths of the city where the average monthly salary of $220 is unpopular with many. local people.

The left-wing mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, has sought to navigate the changing market by embracing transplants and partnering with Airbnb in a campaign promoting the city as a “tourist capital” “creative” to encourage foreigners to spend money in poorer neighborhoods. .

But as soaring US and European visitors fuel Airbnb’s rapid expansion, the mayor’s alliance with the rental giant has sparked a controversy that has engulfed the platform in other major cities. , from London to New York to San Francisco, where critics have accused it of driving up housing costs.

Housing activists, wary of urban revitalization and a shortage of rental housing in the vast capital, have accused city leaders of promoting a current “colonization” is costing many Mexicans dearly.

Sergio González, a housing activist, said there would be “major problems” if the city government did not regulate the housing market at a time when remote workers were leading to “forced families”. must be relocated”.

Amid the backlash, the mayor has acknowledged that US and European remote workers can put pressure on housing prices and has directed the city’s housing regulator to study the impact of the coronavirus. Airbnb.

Ms. Sheinbaum told reporters in November: “Digital nomads are coming. “Obviously, we don’t want this to mean a price increase or a price increase.”

According to Airbnb, from April to June of this year, the number of stays booked in Mexico City on the platform for more than a month increased by 30% compared to the same period in 2019, making the city one of the most popular destinations in the world. come more popular worldwide among long-term tenants.

In the residential areas of Condesa and Roma, whose lush streetscapes and vibrant food scene have long made them attractive to more affluent residents, co-working spaces provide Free coffee and small study rooms have blossomed.

English speakers spilled out of the cafes and on Sundays the canteens were packed with young people in sports jerseys, the televisions switching from football to American football.

The city’s campaign with Airbnb, expected to be fully rolled out on the platform’s website early next year, is aimed at dispersing crowds. It will promote guided activities, designed with the help of UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, in neighborhoods that usually don’t have many visitors, according to the company and officials. city. Airbnb will also provide information about moving to Mexico, including visa requirements.

Miroslava Miyarath Lazcano Cruz, who has been offering Airbnb tours since 2019, started a new Airbnb tour in October in Xochimilco, the working-class neighborhood where she lives, where she is currently stationed. role model for the program.

The tour includes preparing tamales from carefully selected ingredients and floating along the neighborhood’s famous ancient canal system.

This experience shows high demand, introducing tourists to the markets and customs of a part of the capital that outsiders have not explored much. Lazcano Cruz said guests who come through Airbnb have “a vision and a desire to explore the space in a different way”.

Suvi Haering, a Finnish creative director who arrived in Mexico City in November after two months of telecommuting in France, said working and living in Mexico “pushes you to challenge your own thinking”.

“It’s the complete opposite of my hometown, so it’s the most inspiring place I can go,” said Ms. Haering as she dined at a restaurant in the Roma neighborhood with a friend, a director. project manager from Denmark, who used to work here. stayed with her in a nearby Airbnb.

The increase in the number of expats living in Mexico City coincided with an increase in rents. According to data from, a real estate website, the citywide average monthly rent rose from $880 in January 2020 to $1,080 in November.

The increase was higher in the more upscale neighborhoods. Leonardo González, an analyst at, said that in an area of ​​Condesa bordering Chapultepec Park, one of the city’s larger green spaces, monthly rents rose from $1,610 in October. 1 2020 to $2,250 in November, mainly due to the arrival of remote workers. .

Real estate experts say many are looking for short-term homes on Airbnb, which is squeezing the supply of available long-term rentals.

Cities around the world, including Barcelona, ​​​London and New York, where housing costs have risen sharply, have targeted Airbnb by imposing stricter rules on services to short term rental.

In Mexico, an Airbnb spokesperson said the company is working with government officials “to be part of the solution to the challenges facing communities in Mexico City.”

The company also highlights the financial benefits for people renting rooms on the platform: More than half of Airbnb hosts recently surveyed by the company in Mexico City said the extra income helped cover rising food costs due to inflation.

For Leonor González, income from an Airbnb she started renting out in 2020 in a state bordering Mexico City allows her to continue to pay her employees during the pandemic as the business grows Her business set up the stalled conference space.

Later that year, she also listed a new apartment, a stylish loft in Mexico City, for $71 a night on Airbnb. It has been booked almost non-stop, often by Americans working remotely for more than a week, Ms. González said.

“The truth is there aren’t any locals renting here right now,” she said of her Condesa neighborhood. “Just a foreigner.”

Mexico City officials argue that high housing costs in parts of the capital are the result of years of urban revitalization that began in the 1980s, when a wave of new construction followed the earthquake Terrible land pulls in younger residents, with better pockets.

However, Diana Alarcón, a top adviser to the mayor, admits that teleworkers are also contributing to rising housing prices.

“Certainly a large number of higher earners are coming to a single area that could lead to price increases,” she said. “That is why it is important to show visitors that there are many other areas to explore in Mexico.”

Ximena Gómez Gutiérrez, 24, who commutes an hour from her family home in a neighboring state to her job at a reproductive rights organization in Mexico City, joined a recent protest about the program new Airbnb program and the city’s lack of affordable housing.

Living close to work and being able to enjoy a vibrant urban lifestyle has long been a dream, Ms. Gutiérrez said.

“But my salary is not enough to be able to think about living” in the capital, she said.


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