Airbnb apartments become long-term rentals in the fight against coronavirus

A few weeks ago, people in Madrid started noticing a sudden increase in the number of new apartments for long-term rent on the websites of real estate agencies.

Something else was odd too: many of these new listings were for apartments in the city center and other tourist areas, and included surprisingly high quality images that showed neatly folded towels in rolls on the bed and fully laid kitchen tables – not what you usually do. found when looking for a new apartment.

Instead, the new listings looked surprisingly similar to those typically found on Airbnb and other short-term rental and tourist platforms.

So much so that they were in fact apartments previously offered only at daily rates on Airbnb.

With tourism and travel interrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak, landlords and property managers appeared to be shifting their apartments from crippled tourist rental platforms to the long-term market.

It wasn’t just in Madrid.

The same was what happens in barcelona. And in Dublin. And in Edinburgh. And in London. And probably in more European cities, while the same trend has been reported in other parts of the world.

Housing rights activists and advocates for years denounced the impact of Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms in the housing markets of many European cities.

They argue that removing apartments from the long-term market and renting them out to tourists and visitors reduces supply and thus increases the price of long-term rentals and adds to the phenomenon of gentrification.

According to this view, short-term rental platforms help transform housing into a financial asset to be operated for profit, rather than a social good providing housing for people.

The total number of listings on Airbnb is over 7 million nowbut the company does not publish detailed data that would track the increase in this number over time.

However, according to research published last December there was a 20% increase in the number of “active listings” on Airbnb between October 2018 and September 2019, from 3 million to 3.6 million (active listings refer to those that have received at least one review on during these months).

During this period, the number of apartments listed as active on Airbnb in Greece increased by 25% and by more than 20% in Portugal and Spain.

Official line

Airbnb’s official line is that it is part of the so-called sharing economyand that it helps people earn extra money, or even make ends meet, by allowing them to rent an extra room from time to time.

However, in Dublin and Barcelona around 49% of listings on Airbnb are for entire apartments, while in London (56%), Edinburgh (62%) and Madrid (67.1%) it is more than half. half, according to the most recent figures from Inside Airbnb. , which compiles and analyzes data from the rental platform.

And academic research has shown a causal relationship between the spread of apartments listed on Airbnb and the eviction of long-term residents from their neighborhoods in cities like Lisbon and Barcelona.

Housing activists and advocates see indications that landlords and managers are now shifting property from Airbnb to the long-term market as further evidence that tourism and short-term rental platforms are helping to transform housing into a financial asset to operated for profitand they assume these apartments will return to the tourist market as soon as they become profitable once the coronavirus crisis is over.

For its part, Airbnb has launched a global program to help its hosts “to shelter more than 100,000 Covid-19 medical and rescue workers”and is reportedly considering postponing its decision to become a publicly traded company from this year to 2021.

In recent years, European municipalities have tried to regulate how Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms can operate in their cities, but last December the European Court of Justice made it more difficult ruling that Airbnb acts as an “information society service”. “, and it cannot be regulated like real estate agencies or other housing services are.

Housing has become one of the main lines of defense against the current Covid-19 outbreak as we are all being told to stay home. As governments now adopt all types of extraordinary measures to combat the pandemic, and businesses and individuals attempt to cope with the health and economic emergency as best they can, it remains to be seen how authorities , businesses, owners and residents will consider housing. in the post-coronavirus world we are heading into.

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