Airbnb increases rental market prices in Paris: NPR

The city of Berlin just banned Airbnb because it was swallowing up long-term rentals and driving up prices. Paris is now struggling to temper the explosion of the rental site for the same reasons.


Online home rental sites like Airbnb can be good for travelers, but many cities are complaining about raising prices and depriving residents of housing. Berlin recently banned short-term rentals. The mayor of Barcelona plans to block people from renting their homes on unlicensed websites. Airbnb’s # 1 destination is Paris. And this city is trying to find a balance. NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley sends this report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Airbnb has grown exponentially in the City of Lights. In 2012, it offered around 4,000 rentals. Four years later, there are more than 70,000. In some neighborhoods in August, there are more Airbnb tenants than inhabitants.

David Downie, who writes about Paris, says online home rentals have changed the character of his neighborhood and building.

DAVID DOWNIE: So what you have is this constant rolling of people dragging their suitcases through the cobbled yard late at night, stamping with shoes in these old buildings that don’t have sound insulation. There is no insulation in these old buildings. It’s completely out of control.

BEARDSLEY: Ian Brossat is deputy mayor of Paris. He says his city doesn’t want to ban Airbnb outright.

DEPUTY MAYOR OF HOUSING IAN BROSSAT: (By interpreter) We are happy that Paris is a very important destination for the company, but we are concerned about its impact on housing. We do not want to lose more housing for Parisians when there is already a serious shortage.

BEARDSLEY: A new law allows residents to rent out their property for only four months a year. Longer than that, Brossat says, and it’s clearly a tourist operation and you have to apply for a permit and register your home as commercial property. Those who do not can face a fine of $ 30,000. NPR reached out to Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and CTO of Airbnb. He says the company is doing its best to work with the cities.

NATHAN BLECHARCZYK: We have made tax deals with almost 200 different cities around the world and in doing so we have raised $ 85 million to date.

BEARDSLEY: Deputy Mayor Brossat said Airbnb now collects city tourist tax, but refused to prevent people from renting their property for more than four months. This week, a French newspaper criticized Airbnb for paying virtually no corporate tax. The newspaper said that if France is such a popular destination, it is because of the fantastic public transport and tourist infrastructure, all paid for by French taxpayers. A hotel organization sues Airbnb for unfair competition. But Eric Hewson, who works as a concierge, says it was tourists’ concern for safety that has caused the drop in bookings.

ERIC HEWSON: The recent terrorist attacks – so they affect us a lot. It’s not Airbnb at all (laughs), no.

BEARDSLEY: Hewson is renting a room in his own apartment on Airbnb. He says it gives him some extra money and stuff.

HEWSON: It also gives me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. And it’s really interesting. It also brings positive things for the city economically.

BEARDSLEY: Hewson says if people spend a little less on accommodation, they spend more on restaurants and shopping, and it all comes back to Paris at the end of it. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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