European Cities Alliance calls for STR legislative initiative action

Europe: The European Cities Alliance engaged in regulating short-term holiday rentals has called on the European Commission to move ahead with legislative action to regulate the industry in Europe and tackle illegal rental operations.

The Alliance engages on the issue of short-term regulation and includes the following cities: Amsterdam, Arezzo, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Bordeaux, Brussels, Cologne, Florence, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Krakow, London, Milan, Munich, Paris, Porto, Prague, Utrecht, Valencia, Vienna and Warsaw, as well as Eurocities, a network of more than 200 cities in 38 countries, that supports the outreach of the cities through research papers.

Earlier this month, mayors, deputy mayors, city officials, MEPs and Eurocities representatives from cities in the Alliance published and signed an open letter to the European Commission, urging it to follow through with its legislative initiative to regulate short-term rentals across the bloc.

Last October, it was reported that the European Commission was considering a single set of pan-European rules, with the Commission itself saying that while it supports an expansion of competition and players in the sector, it respects EU law which allows for Member States to apply local rules based on concerns that are in the public interest.

A public consultation period on short-term rental accommodation services was held between 27 September and 13 December last year as an opportunity for European member states to contribute their thoughts on the current landscape and the potential impacts of possible measures affecting short-term rental services.

Across Europe, it is a vastly contrasting landscape with short-term rental listings on the rise, and more and more cities and countries seeking to limit them through a range of measures, including digital tourist taxes, zoning restrictions and licensing schemes.

The European Cities Alliance cites the increasing “touristification” of cities and the number of short-term rental listings as reasons for wanting stricter regulations. In Amsterdam, it said that listings grew from 4,500 in 2013 to 22,000 in 2017, while in Florence [Italy] and Krakow [Poland], listings increased by 60 per cent since 2015 and by 100 per cent between 2014 and 2017 respectively.

The Alliance added that these rentals “deprive traditional neighbourhoods of their character and drive residents out of the urban centres”.

Cities are now going to further lengths in a bid to resolve perceived ‘over-tourism’ as they feel their concerns are not being adequately addressed. The Turisme de Barcelona Consortium, for example, turned Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batlló into an NFT [non-fungible token] for American travellers, in order to capture “better quality” tourism and avoid disruption such as excessive noise, crime and littering in its streets.

Last year, the municipality of Barcelona effectively announced a ban on Airbnb and short-term rentals under 31 days, however the decision was revoked by the Spanish Supreme Court back in January.

The Alliance goes on to claim that the European Commission has postponed the legislative initiative it proposed several times and that the matter does not even appear on the planned list of initiatives until December.

As a result, the Alliance has called for:

  • The Commission to “urgently go forward with proposing its announced short-term rental initiative”, adding that “the availability, affordability of housing, as well as liveability of our cities are at stake”.
  • A proposal giving “clear authorisation and discretion to authorities to regulate holiday rentals in the general public interest and putting in place registration systems” at local, regional or national levels.
  • Access to data from platforms to be provided in order to enforce the rules, otherwise administrative costs will substantially increase for municipalities because of litigation fees and investment in “professional capacity to check rental data in alternative ways, to follow-up complaints and indications of illegal short-term rental activity, to impose fines etc”.
  • “A better and more efficient system that enables all platforms to understand and comply with local rules across the EU, regardless of the size of the platform”.