New strict Dutch rules on Airbnb, a plan for our cities

The bike rental company had a quiet day. The afternoon was unusually humid in Amsterdam and the tourists left the bikes to the natives. “The summer has been epic,” says Dirk. “Everyone who comes here wants to ride a bike and experience the local life. We had queues at the gate.”

The irbnb, he says, has played a big role in this regard. “People who typically use Airbnb will go out and spend money in the city. They want to live like a local, and that doesn’t just mean non-hotel accommodation.”

But, while it has helped his business – which, at five years old, coincides perfectly with when Airbnb started taking over the city – he has doubts about the short-term rental giant.

“It has changed the neighborhood I live in – and not for the better,” he says.

Many of his compatriots in the city are also in conflict. Others took up arms and took to the streets to protest. They see Airbnb as one of the main reasons house prices have gone up, rents have gone up, and chi-chi food stores have replaced good quality stores.

Urban planner Sito Veracruz has seen firsthand the impact Airbnb has had on Amsterdam. He lives in his old center and finds that more and more properties are rented on short-term rental platforms, of which Airbnb is by far the most dominant.

“The original idea for Airbnb was great,” he says. “Rent a room to a tourist and he can have an authentic experience in another country.

“The problem is, it’s become way too commercialized. It’s much more lucrative to rent entire properties on Airbnb than to use the normal long-term rental market.”

Mr Veracruz might as well be talking about Dublin or a tourist attraction like Dingle, both of which have far more entire properties for rent on any given day than in the regular rental industry.

According to Inside Airbnb, which tracks the platform’s rentals worldwide, there were 4,896 entire homes available on Airbnb in Dublin just before Christmas. As of the same day, there were only 1,496 properties on that could be rented out in the capital. It’s a disparity that has seen Airbnb take much of the blame for Ireland’s housing crisis, especially Dublin.

Amsterdam has tried to combat the inexorable rise of Airbnb by introducing restrictions to limit the number of days for renting entire properties. As of January 1 of this year, it is no longer allowed to rent properties in their entirety for more than 30 days in a calendar year. Currently Amsterdam has the strictest short-term rental laws anywhere in Europe.

This year, Ireland will also try to contain Airbnb’s growth, especially in pressure points like Dublin. Anyone wishing to rent a room will need a permit from their town hall and only those who can prove that the Airbnb property is their primary residence will be able to rent it out in its entirety, then for only 90 days a year.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has made it clear that homeowners and investors will not be granted permits and, therefore, will not be able to make their properties available on Airbnb.

But based on the Amsterdam experience, it won’t be easy for the Irish authorities to prevent Airbnb hosts from renting properties in their entirety.

A senior housing official in the city of Amsterdam says that without enforcement the new legislation is meaningless. He doesn’t want his name used “because this issue is so political.” After trying to counter the growth of Airbnb for five years, he is intrigued by the Irish proposals. But he has a warning.

“What we’ve done from the start is extend our application,” he says. “We needed the money and the manpower to do it. If people think the chance of getting caught is minimal, then even the best policies are just words.”

The housing manager said the latest laws could limit the increase in Airbnb rentals in the city. Under the old 60-day rule, he said the platform has grown 8% in the past year. “The growth is not as important as it was at the beginning,” he says. “But it continues to grow. When it is limited to 30 days, that growth might stop.”

He insists that city council is not opposed to the original concept of Airbnb – where tourists rent a room from a host or where a host makes their entire property available on the limited occasion when they are on a business trip or on vacation.

“We call our policy a ‘vacation rental’,” he says. “It’s for people who go on vacation and don’t want to leave their homes empty. You couldn’t predict that it would go up so quickly.”

Airbnb’s popularity has practically exploded in Amsterdam. In 2014, there were approximately 6,000 properties listed on the platform. Today the number stands at 20,000.

Shirley Nieuwland, from Erasmus University Rotterdam, studied the “Airbnb effect” – so called because of the impact on short-term rental on residential areas – and says it has been difficult to assess whether the hard approach has achieved its goals or not.

“Regulations are one thing,” she says. “But the apps are mainly the problem. Even though you have very strict regulations, many cities have the problem of not being able to enforce them. It’s really hard to know who is following your rule and who is not.

“Finding the host is very complicated. There are so many listings online. You need Airbnb on your end, but they don’t share individual data. If you find the people, how are you going to prove that? “They’ve done 100 nights of rental? They might say,” It’s just a friend staying here. “

The housing manager at the city headquarters in Amsterdam insists that the hosts can be proven to be transgressing.

“In the beginning, we focused on illegal hotels – basically apartment buildings that are fully rented out to tourists,” he says. “We have imposed fines of up to € 20,500 per apartment, so if more than one apartment were rented, we could impose fines of over € 100,000 – and we did. And we catch those who do not comply. the rules regarding the total time that they can also rent their house.

“We have an informant hotline and you can call or email our enforcement teams. That way you have a good chance of getting hit. “

Airbnb was founded in 2008 when its founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia created an ad hoc B&B in their San Francisco loft. Airbnb was born with the launch of its website in March 2009. It quickly became one of the fastest growing startups of all time. It started making forays into Europe – and Ireland – in 2012.

In recent years, however, Airbnb has faced a severe backlash. And Amsterdam’s policy seems to have particularly affected Airbnb, not least because it is aware that several other cities across the continent are studying the Dutch model with a view to adapting it to their own needs.

Officials from the Ministry of Housing, Planning and Local Government are believed to have paid particular attention to Amsterdam when developing its proposed policy, but a spokesperson for the ministry said the new rules are specific to Amsterdam. Ireland and “adapted to the particular circumstances of the country”.

Bernard D’heygere, London-based director of public affairs for Airbnb, believes it is unfair that Airbnb is responsible for both the problem of overtourism in Amsterdam and the housing crisis in Dublin. He does not wish to speak specifically about the Irish situation – Airbnb has refused to make anyone available for questioning about the company’s operations in Ireland – but he says Amsterdam’s new 30-day rule will not produce the desired results .

“Reducing the limit on how long people can share their homes from two – to 30 days – will hurt a lot of Amsterdamers and it will probably favor a lot of big hotels,” he said. “Limiting the rights of Amsterdam residents will not really solve the challenges of tourism in Amsterdam.

“We recently commissioned a report and we find that Airbnb plays a small role in the number of guests that stay in Amsterdam – there are 18 or 19 million tourists every year, we host around 800,000.”

Mr D’heygere believes it’s up to the boards and Airbnb to work together to ensure a fair scenario for everyone.

Airbnb host Hans Omno van den Berg said the new laws that will affect him and thousands more will have no impact on reducing the number of tourists or reducing the cost. rents in the normal housing market. “It’s a witch hunt,” he said. “The town hall is concerned about overtourism in the city center, but this old center is still popular with tourists.

“Airbnb is helping revitalize other neighborhoods and bring visitors to parts of the city that they otherwise wouldn’t see. And they’re spending money in those neighborhoods.”

By the end of 2019, after six months of Airbnb rules in Ireland, we’ll have an idea if the restrictions are working in places like Dublin.

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