I would like to clarify my quote in the Airbnb article ("A Bed & Breakfast on Every Block?" 8/2/2013), where I complained about transients vs. neighborhood. I explained to author Catherine Capellaro, though she did not include it, that transient in this case meant people who come and go with no vested interest in the neighborhood. And to further clarify, Airbnb guests have no interest in slowing traffic down on streets where children are playing, or checking in on an elderly neighbor without air-conditioning in hot weather, or contributing to a local community center that supports improved quality living in the neighborhood. In other words, I believe that Airbnb's and building neighborhood are antithetical.
If someone is truly interested in meeting people from other places, rather than "monetizing their extra space" by allowing Airbnb rentals in their homes, there are two nonprofit organizations I can suggest to meet this goal.
One is Servas (usservas.org). People are screened through a personal interview and must have two recommendation letters and present a letter of introduction to the hosts. (Airbnb does no screening, though there are reviews of hosts and visitors online by the participants.) Arrangements for home stays are made by the individuals involved. Both hosts and visitors are asked to commit to two nights, so that there is time for interaction. You can be a traveler or a host or both. A small fee is charged to meet administrative expenses, but no money changes hands between hosts and travelers.
The other is Friendship Force (friendshipforce.org). This is a club-based concept. Clubs visit clubs from other places both in the U.S. and overseas. Usually a home-hosted visit is five to seven days. The group hosting arranges local experiences that the group visits together. The Madison club recently hosted guests from Turkey, Peru, Oregon and St. Louis. Fees are charged to cover administrative costs of the organization, for meals and tickets to sightseeing items, bus rides, etc. But it is less costly than visiting on your own and more interesting too.