Title image courtesy of Dimitris Plantzos
The first instance of anti-Airbnb graffiti I encountered in Athens in the summer of 2018 was a stencil, spray-painted in signal red, proclaiming Airbnb tourists fuck off — Refugees welcome all over the neighborhood of Koukaki.1 A little less than two years later anti-Airbnb graffiti has become ubiquitous on the walls of the city, with combative slogans, stencils, and banners registering the growing contention about the rental platform’s presence and impact on Athens—a situation that has already yielded an alarmist piece in BBC Trending on “How Airbnb angered Greek Anarchists.”
Much like in other European cities, Airbnb is held responsible for catalyzing rent increases and gentrification, thereby displacing long-term renters and rapidly changing the character of neighborhoods, with “touristic activity [invading] non-touristic central areas.”2 However, whereas cities like Berlin and Barcelona have introduced measures to curtail the negative effects of short-term rental platforms, in Athens the proliferation of Airbnbs—whose numbers almost doubled between 2017 and 2018 alone—is unfolding against a distinct lack of regulation and renter protection.3
In the context of the Greek crisis, which rendered many Athenians economically precarious, Airbnb first emerged as a potential survival strategy for middle- and low-income households (keyword sharing economy), that also promised to ameliorate the issue of vacancy in central neighborhoods. In 2020, however, it has become increasingly clear that Airbnb has instead turned into an instrument of targeted real estate speculation, dispossession, and redistribution of urban resources along the interests of tourist development.4 As a group of neighborhood activists from central Athens cynically describes in a 2018 blog post:
Tourism, as the operators say excitedly, is really getting us out of the crisis. However, we observe, with some embarrassment, that as we “get out” of the crisis there is a tendency to get out of our homes.5
The effects of Athens’ Airbnb-fication are felt most acutely in the central neighborhoods of Exarcheia (779 listings) and Koukaki (732 listings), both of which have also recently been targeted by violent evictions of anarchist and refugee squats under the law-and-order paradigm of the new city government.6 It is in these neighborhoods, and in the ones adjacent to them (Kypseli to Exarcheia, Petralona to Koukaki), where the majority of anti-Airbnb graffiti can be found.
Many of these pieces are variations of basic anti-Airbnb sentiments, always anonymous and always sprayed by hand.
Others yet, especially in Exarcheia, take an even more confrontational stance, directly addressing Airbnb users in the neighborhood.
Finally, a number of slogans, posters, stickers, and stencils try to convey the devastating effects the Airbnb-fication of Athens is having on their everyday lives.