French tourist towns take a stand against Airbnb rentals

Towns in France’s tourist hotspots are taking a stand against short-term vacation rentals – often known as the ‘Airbnb model’ – as they say they drive up prices and lead to a lack of property for local residents .

For example, the INSEE statistics office indicates that between 1968 and 2018, the number of second homes on the Brittany coast has multiplied by 3.6. At the same time, seasonal vacation rentals have exploded, creating – say locals – unprecedented strain on housing in the area.

Read more: Demonstrations on second homes in Brittany: “But we buy houses that the French do not want”

The problem has been exacerbated by the increase in the number of people working from home after the pandemic.

St Malo struggling despite regulations against Airbnb-style properties

A man in his forties, tells Le Figaro that he was forced to share accommodation in a hotel residence with students, for lack of accommodation in his home town of St Malo.

At the head of his own consulting business, he says: “I have been to all the real estate agencies, and even if I earn a lot of money, it becomes impossible to find accommodation if you are not a civil servant or if we don’t have a permanent contract. ”

He previously lived long-term in an Airbnb, but had to leave as high season approached because the rent more than quadrupled. He said: “I was paying €850 a month. But from the Easter holidays, the apartment is rented 900 € per week.

The problem is still significant although Saint-Malo has adopted some of the strictest regulations against Airbnb-style properties in France. In the summer of 2021, it imposed a maximum quota of 12.5% ​​short-term rentals within the main city limits.

However, these are not without controversy; the St Malo rules are the subject of two court cases in Rennes, with plaintiffs claiming the rules constitute an abuse of power.

Lawyer M. Guirriec also says the by-law does not fully meet the law’s aims – which is to protect housing and prevent the town from becoming a museum in which the real inhabitants cannot afford to live.

He said: “The regulation of St Malo is particularly motivated by the fight against competition with the hotel sector.” He also criticized the “lack of transparency” in the calculation of quotas.

The pressure group Housing for all in Brittany, said: “Each year, the imbalance is accentuated with new housing programs in favor of second homes, and speculation linked to tourism.

“This is causing a surge in real estate prices, impacting the private rental stock as well as access to property. This tension is an obstacle to keeping active young people in the neighborhood and to housing low-income households year-round.

The group now calls on the authorities to “classify the whole of Brittany as an area under real estate pressure, which would allow a surcharge on second homes”.

She also asked for a status of residence in Brittany, which would only allow him to acquire property in certain tense areas if he has lived there for at least a year.

Olivier Ferrando, from the collective, said: ‘There are 333,000 empty homes for nine months of the year in Brittany…following our movement, some mayors are starting to act to regulate short-term stays.’

Read more: Protests against second homes in Brittany as housing debate continues

A growing problem across France

Patrick Rayton, mayor of La Couarde-sur-Mer, on the Ile de Ré (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), recently wrote an open letter to his constituents about the difficulties in finding accommodation.

He said the situation was so bad that a local school in a small village of 1,200 people was at risk of closing because half of its staff had left, unable to find nearby accommodation.

The Agim real estate agency confirmed the fact: “The phenomenon is similar everywhere on the island. We currently have more than a hundred families waiting for a year-round rental.

Several dozen cities across France, from Nice to Colmar, have imposed their own restrictions.

“Secondary residences are a real resource for cities”

However, Géraldine Leduc, general manager of Anett, the national association of tourist territories, has come to the defense of second homes. She said: “Second homes are a real resource for cities. This is no longer the situation in the 1960s, when people only came for the summer.

“Today, we are talking about semi-main or quasi-main residences. The challenge for the authorities is to encourage these people to stay longer. Especially during times when the countryside empties and local spending is on a downward spiral.

She added that secondary owners pay higher property taxes than primary owners, but “use very few public services, such as nurseries or local financial aid”.

Similarly, Michel Penhouët, the mayor of the commune of Saint-Lunaire, in Ille-et-Vilaine, said his village was “a ghost town in winter” 20 years ago, but residents in second homes have changed the situation.

He said: “We live alongside our secondary residents: they come summer and winter, participate in the life of the city, and some of them vote here.”

“A bit of a powder keg”

However, Mr Penhouët admitted it had driven up house prices. He said: “We are reaching Parisian prices. The price of a house has doubled, the price of certain land has tripled… and the private rental stock is falling like a stone.

Of the 1,720 second homes in the town, 191 are seasonal rentals, of which 122 have been rented over the past four years, he said.

He also said some restaurants in the area were forced to close two days a week because they couldn’t find employees. “We are sitting on a kind of powder keg,” admitted Mr. Penhouët.

He added that the rate of second homes has reached 59% in the commune. He said: “The problem is that you also have to house people all year round, especially young people. We mayors aren’t big fans of regulation, but we’re at a stage where it can become a bit of a confrontation.

Land is becoming scarce, especially as the new climate law rules out land take by 2050, he said.

In some tourist areas, however, anti-short-term rental sentiment has already turned violent.

A second home in the village of Caurel, Brittany, was ravaged by arson on May 17, while in January another house was damaged in the same village. 60% of Caurel’s housing stock is made up of second homes.

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