Ten cities ask for EU 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 sites, which they say are keeping residents out of housing and changing the face of neighborhoods.

In a joint letterAmsterdam, Barcelona, ​​​​Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, Krakow, Munich, Paris, Valencia and Vienna said the “explosive growth” of global short-term rental platforms must be on the agenda of the next group of commissioners Europeans.

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

This status, if confirmed by the court, would allow Airbnb and similar platforms to operate freely across the block and, importantly, absolve them of any responsibility for ensuring landlords comply with local rules aimed at regulating vacation rentals.

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

Cities said local authorities must be able to counter the adverse effects of the rise in short-term vacation rentals, such as rising rents for full-time residents and further “touristification” of neighborhoods , by “introducing their own regulations according to the local situation”. situation”.

“We believe 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 as far as internet giants are concerned.

After several years of strong growth, Airbnb currently has more than 18,000 ads in Amsterdam and Barcelona, ​​22,000 in Berlin and nearly 60,000 in Paris. Campaign group data Inside Airbnb last year suggested that more than half were apartments or entire 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 say the boom in short-term vacation rentals is contributing to soaring long-term rents, although speculation and poor public housing supply are also factors. Last year Palma de Mallorca voted to ban almost all listings after a 50% increase in tourist rentals followed by a 40% increase in residential rents.

Many are now trying to take action: in Paris, landlords risk a fine if they do not register with the town hall before renting a property short-term (although many do not), while Amsterdam has attempted to reduce its annual limit for vacation rentals 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 are hampering their efforts to ensure 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 holiday rentals, which would make it much easier for cities to insure themselves. compliance with 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 where platforms have asserted that they were willing to cooperate, “in practice they do not, 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 21st century sustainable travel”.

Ian Brossat, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of housing, said the situation had deteriorated to such an extent that “in the four central arrondissements of Paris, a quarter of all properties are no longer houses but only rentals of short duration for tourists”.

Brossat said the city had new rules in place and the number of Airbnb rentals had stabilized, but “now Airbnb is turning to the [European] commission and appealing to a law that is obviously extremely favorable to its activities. Our local rules are indeed threatened by the European Commission.

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

Airbnb – a potted story

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

The company has seen triple-digit growth in several European cities since 2014, when the continent became its largest market with more than half of total global stays. 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 depriving residents of time full of houses, drives up rents and contributes to “overtourism”.

While some landlords are still private landlords letting a spare room, a significant number are large-scale commercial operators, often with multiple listings – and campaigners say Airbnb is unfairly taking advantage of EU efforts to boost” the sharing economy”, which means that it can effectively ignore local regulatory requirements.

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