The Georgia Bulldogs — the two-time defending national champions — draw some 90,000 spectators to Sanford Stadium for six or seven home games every fall, essentially creating an alternate market for short-term rentals that lasts about three months. Real estate investors are buying and building homes for fans who will pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a weekend of housing for a home game, and the effects are impacting local residents all year long. According to AirDNA, which tracks the performance data of Airbnb and VRBO vacation rentals, there are currently 1,135 short-term rentals available in Athens — up from 865 in November 2022 — with 88 percent of them comprising an entire private home.
Ms. Malcolm, who lives on the west side of Athens, runs a nonprofit called Farm to Neighborhood and a food truck and catering company, Rashe’s Cuisine, on the city’s east side, not far from Sanford Stadium. “It is a historically Black area,” she said, “so when football games happen, you do start to see more non-Black people coming through the neighborhood and walking over to the liquor store to get beer to go back to their rental.”
Athens is no outlier. Around the United States, in small cities reliant on college sports to keep their economies humming, short-term rentals are destabilizing housing markets, fueled by wealthy fans and investors who transform single-family homes into de facto hotels for a few weeks out of the year, and often leave them sitting empty the rest of the time.
“College athletics, in particular college football, have become so enormous in this country, particularly in the Southeast, that it has caused this phenomenon of short-term rentals,” said Adrien Bouchet, director of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida. “On one hand it creates value, but on the other hand, it definitely hurts people that have lived in and around the university for a long time.”
Mr. Bouchet pointed to similar market trends in Southern college towns like Auburn, Ala., Tuscaloosa, Ala., Gainesville, Fla., and Oxford, Miss., where football rules the economy during the fall. Over the past year, the supply of short-term rentals has grown 34 percent in Tuscaloosa (home to the University of Alabama), 33 percent in Columbia, Mo. (University of Missouri), and 11 percent in South Bend, Ind. (University of Notre Dame), according to data from AirDNA. Bookings typically peak in November.