“We’re bringing tourism to this part of Chicago for the first time in 50 or 60 years,” says Seamus Ford of Austin. “Locals know the history of recent disinvestment here, and many stay away. It’s gotten a bad rap. But our guests think our transitional neighborhood is incredibly cool, and see its unique value. Airbnb is helping to spread the good word. People talk about this part of the city now in ways they weren’t just a few years ago. That’s the amazing thing about Airbnb: it can change the conversation about a neighborhood.”
Seamus is passionate about community. Aside from being a host for the past five years, the 50-year-old husband and father also does public relations for an education company, owns a small real estate management company, freelances as a carpenter, and keeps chickens in his backyard. He and his wife bought their Victorian home in 2007—right before the financial crash.
“Airbnb has been a financial lifeline for my family,” he says. “When the crisis hit, we went underwater with our mortgage and had a hard choice to make: stay here and try to make it work, or walk away? We chose to stay, and Airbnb enabled us to bridge that gap. Now that we’ve more or less turned the corner with the crisis, we can use the money we make renting out our spare rooms to pay for supplementary education for our daughter; to visit my grandmother before she passes away… We’re not just going out to dinner with this income. It’s making a quality of life for us that I think everyone is entitled to.”
His neighbors know about Airbnb and are very supportive, Seamus says, because they appreciate what it’s doing for their community’s reputation. He imagines the city must be pleased with all the new revenue home sharing is bringing in. And he calls his hosting duties “a joyful way to make it all work: the financial, family, and community sides of life.”
Seamus also says that he and his wife are committed to raising their daughter as a global citizen, and that Airbnb is a perfect resource for achieving that. He loves for her to see people from all corners of the world walking to and from their neighborhood’s L station. “Airbnb quantifies trust in an era when the media’s selling fear,” he says. “When people connect on such a personal level—in their homes—that doesn’t get undone easily. I now have a connection to the cultures of all the people I’ve hosted or been hosted by. So when I read the news and see something happening on another part of the planet, I’m naturally more interested in what’s going on there; it’s no longer abstract for me. I know it sounds grandiose, but Airbnb is really a backstop against people’s eroding faith in human nature. It’s profound.”