European cities call on EU to limit spread of Airbnb

Europe: Ten cities have called for help from the European Union to limit the proliferation of short-term rentals on Airbnb in order for them to manage critical local housing shortages.

A joint letter, signed by authorities in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, Krakow, Munich, Paris, Valencia and Vienna, said that short-term holiday rentals let out by Airbnb were resulting in “nuisances” and the unwanted “touristification” of neighbourhoods.

It read: “European cities believe that homes should be used first and foremost for living in. Many cities suffer from a serious housing shortage.

“Where homes can be used more lucratively for renting out to tourists, they disappear from the traditional housing market, prices are driven up even further and housing of citizens who live and work in our cities is hampered,” it added.

A recent non-binding decision by an advocate general at the European Court of Justice announced that Airbnb should be seen as a digital service provider under EU legislation, as opposed to real estate agents. The move has caused controversy as it would mean Airbnb would not be required to operate under local letting regulations should the decision be officially passed into law.

The cities argued local authorities should be able to impose their own respective regulations on such rentals in order to counteract the grievances they have had concerning supposed “over-tourism”.

A statement by the cities said: “For this, we need strong legal obligations for platforms to cooperate with us in registration-schemes and in supplying rental-data per house that is advertised on their platforms.”

Furthermore, any confirmed court ruling would ensure Airbnb has no responsibility nor obligation to hand over user details to cities. The municipalities say this would make it harder to prevent non-compliance with local short-term letting laws, such as the maximum number of days allowed.

The statement continued: “Where platforms claim that they are willing to cooperate with the authorities, in practice they don’t or only do so on a voluntary basis.

“Homes needed for residents to live and work in our cities, will become more and more considered as a market for renting out to tourists. We think that cities are best placed to understand their residents’ needs,” they added.