Ten cities ask EU for help to fight Airbnb expansion | Airbnb

Ten European cities have asked for more help from the EU in their battle against Airbnb and other vacation rental websites, which they say are blocking residents from housing and changing the face of neighborhoods.

In a joint letter, Amsterdam, Barcelona, ​​Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, Krakow, Munich, Paris, Valencia and Vienna said “explosive growth” of global short-stay rental platforms should be on the agenda for the next round of European commissioners.

In April, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice ruled in a non-binding opinion that under EU law Airbnb should be viewed as a digital information provider rather than a traditional real estate agent.

This status, if upheld by the court, would allow Airbnb and similar platforms to operate freely throughout the block and, most importantly, would relieve them of any responsibility for ensuring that owners comply with local rules to regulate property. Holiday rents.

“European cities believe that houses should be used above all for living there”, the cities said in a press release published by the Amsterdam City Council. “Many are suffering from a severe housing shortage. Where houses can be rented more profitably to tourists, they disappear from the traditional housing market.

Cities said local authorities must be able to counter the damaging effects of the short-term vacation rental boom, such as rising rents for full-time residents and continued “touristification” of neighborhoods, by “introducing their own regulations depending on the situation”.

“We believe that cities are best placed to understand the needs of their residents,” they said. “They have always been authorized to regulate local activity through town planning and housing rules. The Advocate General seems to imply that this will no longer be possible with regard to the Internet giants.

After several years of strong growth, Airbnb currently has over 18,000 advertisements in Amsterdam and Barcelona, ​​22,000 in Berlin and nearly 60,000 in Paris. Campaign group data Inside Airbnb Last year, it was suggested that more than half were apartments or whole houses, and that even in towns where short-term rentals were restricted by local authorities, up to 30% were available for three months or more per year.

Many cities claim that the boom in short-term vacation rentals is contributing to the surge in long-term rents, although speculation and the poor supply of social housing are also factors. Last year Palma de Mallorca voted the ban on almost all listings after a 50% increase in tourist rentals was followed by a 40% increase in residential rents.

Many are now trying to take action: in Paris, landlords face a fine if they do not register with the town hall before renting a property on short notice (although many do not), while Amsterdam has tried to reduce its annual vacation rental limit to one in 12 months, and last year Barcelona suspended all new short-term rental permits.

But city officials now fear that EU attempts to promote e-commerce and the ‘sharing economy’ across the bloc will hamper their efforts to ensure that neighborhoods remain both affordable and livable for residents. .

“Cities are not against this type of vacation rental,” they said. “Tourism provides a city with income and jobs. They think they should be able to make rules.

In particular, they are concerned about the implication of the Advocate General’s opinion that platforms are not obliged to share information on vacation rentals, which would make it much easier for cities to enforce the rules. local regulations.

“We need strong legal obligations for platforms to cooperate with us in registration programs and in providing rental data for properties on their platforms,” they said, adding that when platforms asserted that they were willing to cooperate, “in practice they do not do this, or only do so on a voluntary basis.

Airbnb said in April that it welcomed the Advocate General’s opinion, which it said provided “a clear overview of the rules applicable to collaborative economy platforms and how those rules help create opportunities for consumers “. He said he wanted to “continue to work with everyone to put locals at the heart of sustainable travel for the 21st century”.

Ian Brossat, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of housing, said the situation had deteriorated to such an extent that “in the four central districts of Paris, a quarter of real estate is no longer housing but pure short-term rentals. duration for tourists “.

Brossat said the city has put new rules in place and the number of Airbnb rentals has stabilized, but “now Airbnb is looking to the [European] commission and calling for a law clearly extremely favorable to its activities. Our local rules are effectively threatened by the European Commission.

Digital multinationals could not be allowed to become “more powerful than cities, more powerful than states”, Brossat told French radio. “We need the European Union to be on the side of the residents, not of these big companies.”

Airbnb – a story in the jar

Airbnb began in 2007 as a loose “community” of amateur hosts offering spare rooms or temporarily vacant accommodations to travelers. It argues that its business activity of connecting landlords with people looking for accommodation online means that it is not a traditional rental agency.

The company has experienced triple-digit growth in several European cities since 2014, when the continent became its largest market with more than half of total stays around the world. It now lists tens of thousands of addresses in popular tourist destinations such as London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen and Madrid.

Activists and local authorities say say that since in many cities more than half of Airbnb listings are for entire homes rather than spare rooms, many of which are available for all or most of the year, the company is stealing homes from full-time residents, increases rents and contributes to “overtourism”.

While some owners are still private landlords renting out a spare bedroom, a significant number are large-scale commercial operators, often with multiple listings – and campaigners say Airbnb is unfairly benefiting from EU efforts to boost “Sharing economy” meaning it can effectively ignore local regulatory requirements.

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