The surge in digital nomadism has gained booming popularity due to the Covid-induced rise in remote working, with an estimated 16.9 million digital nomads in the US alone, according to a recent survey. This global trend has led to five distinct categories of digital nomads, including freelancers, business owners, experimental nomads, armchair nomads and salaried digital nomads.
Although remote working has brought with it lower living costs for many, it has also spurred gentrification in cities across the world. Lisbon’s Barrio Alto and Pricipe Real, or Chiang Mai’s Nimman neighbourhood, are examples of tourist hotspots where soaring property costs, largely financed by the purchasing power of remote workers from higher-income countries, are pricing out local people.
Organisations like Habita! in Portugal are fighting for housing rights in affected cities, but the influx of digital nomads are creating a difficult climate that is difficult to contain. Tim Ferriss’ concept of ‘geo-arbitrage’ argues that newcomers from higher-income countries can leverage their higher wages in these lower-cost countries, but for some, this irrationality is often met with disgust.
Max Holleran, a leading urban sociologist, points out the troubling irony: digital nomads are often priced out of their own cities and then contribute to the same issue elsewhere. He argues the difference between the “circular economy” rhetoric of digital nomads and their impact on the ground reveals a “polarizing reality of globalization.”
In addition, there is a need to make sure short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs, run ethically, offering rental services only to those who can legitimately afford it. Legally mandating long-term rentals, as Lisbon activists are doing, is one way to preserve the housing rights of locals and prevent the exploitation of local resources by digitally nomadic guests.
Rita Silva, co-founder of Habita!, believes digital nomads need to be more aware of their impact on the cities they visit. Clearly, this demands a more cooperative attitude from both digital nomads, as well as the people who run them and the local government – an inspiring step in the right direction.
It is worth noting the person mentioned in this article is Rita Silva, the co-founder of Habita!, a Portuguese housing-rights organisation. Along with her teams, she is fighting for the right to affordable housing in urban areas against the influx of digital nomads in Lisbon. She encourages digital nomads to be aware of the impact they make on local communities as they travel, appealing for a more conscious attitude.
As for the organisation mentioned in this article, Habita! is a Portuguese housing-rights organisation founded by Rita Silva in 2018 that works towards offering affordable housing rights in urban areas. The organisation is fighting against the gentrification that digital nomads are causing in cities like Lisbon, pushing for a more cooperative attitude from both the digital nomads, as well as the people who run them and the local government.