A Democrat running for Montana's newest congressional district may have profited off a company she says blocks Montana families from affording homes.
Monica Tranel has slammed Airbnb and other vacation rental services for depleting the supply of long-term rentals and homes in her state. But financial disclosures show Tranel owns up to $50,000 in stock in Airbnb, meaning she stands to gain from a company she said robs families of a "fair shot at owning and renting a home."
Tranel's investments could hurt her chances as she squares off against Trump administration interior secretary Ryan Zinke. The price of a typical home in Montana has increased by 46 percent since late 2020, according to Zillow, and polls show 77 percent of Montanans are concerned about housing affordability. Experts say Airbnb contributes to skyrocketing prices, as houses that would otherwise be available to Montanans are taken off the market and converted to short-term rentals for travelers.
It is unclear when Tranel purchased the Airbnb stock, which is currently valued at just over $100 a share, or whether she has seen gains on her investment. Airbnb valued its stock at $68 a share when the company went public in December 2020. Share prices rose to over $200 in its first months as a publicly traded company before plummeting at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tranel's financial disclosures do not indicate when she purchased the stock. Tranel's campaign told the Free Beacon she is "committed to putting her investments and retirement in a true blind trust" if elected, and remains focused on "addressing the housing affordability crisis facing Western Montana."
Tranel has made the damaging impact of short-term rentals a focus of her campaign rhetoric on housing affordability. At a candidates' forum last month in Missoula, Tranel said she would work to "make sure that the people who own homes in Missoula are actually living in them." Her "4-Point Working Families Affordability Plan" also calls for Congress to "use legislation to address predatory entities who rent out second homes and push hard-working locals out of their own communities."
In 2019, a researcher at the University of Montana's Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research warned that Airbnb's acquisition of property could hurt the state's economy.
"Residents were telling us how short-term rentals were taking up all the housing," said Norma Nickerson. "If you are a business person trying to hire people for the season, there’s no place for people to live because all the workforce housing is changing over from long-term rentals to short-term rentals."
The Zinke campaign said Tranel was "lining her own limousine liberal pockets with money from Airbnb and short term rentals that are making the Montana housing crisis worse."
"The issue isn't that Monica is invested in a San Francisco company, it's that she's a hypocrite and a liar—telling Montanans one thing and secretly doing another," campaign manager Heather Swift told the Free Beacon.
The Tranel campaign further defended her Airbnb investment to the Free Beacon by labeling her opponent Zinke as a "multi-millionaire" who owns "multiple homes."
Tranel, a lawyer who competed in rowing in the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics, is challenging Zinke in Montana's new western congressional district. The seat is rated "likely Republican" by election analysts.