Exploring the Downsides of Digital Nomadism in Latin America

Remote work boom in Latin America triggers housing debate
The booming remote work trend, which has been popularized since the coronavirus pandemic, presents a blessing and a curse to Latin American countries. On the one hand, it has unlocked lifestyle opportunities for many people; but it also poses a threat for some.
The influx of “digital nomads” to countries has spurred a great debate on the impact that it can have on access to housing of native citizens. This was recently seen in Mexico, when dozens of citizens came together in protest against the government’s decision to promote the arrival of foreign digital nomads and an agreement with the Airbnb platform.
In many popular cities for these digital nomads, such as Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Medellin, Lima and Guadalajara, their massive presence has induced gentrification and increased rents, resulting in displacement of original local residents due to their inability to pay.
Public Policy analyst Andrés Olaya argues that people from wealthy countries now have the ability to become upper class just by relocating and paying in dollars or euros.

However, Juan Carlos Zentella, director of Local and Global Ideas, believes that while Airbnb has acted as a catalyst, government policies have had a prior effect in pushing locals out of their homes. The decision of some 40 countries to issue special visas for digital nomads, explains Zentella, involves certain income requirements too, and they are not supposed to break into the local labor market and must have comprehensive health insurance.

On the other hand, digital nomads provide economic benefits to the countries they visit. Their consumption in businesses, cafés, shops and markets contributes to generating employment income across multiple industries.

For researchers, the ideal resolution for this conflict lies in government provision of social housing, with price regulation. However, should this prove difficult, one viable solution includes setting limits to the number of homes for short-term rental use and restricting it for tourists and nomads.

Platforms such as Airbnb should also collaborate with local governments to protect the right to centrality, wrote Olaya. This would ensure that people could still enjoy living in central places with access to all services, while keeping the real estate market under control.

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