Italy: The Tuscan capital Florence is preparing to introduce a bylaw that would prohibit short-term rentals in the city’s historic centre, having already announced a ban on new listings.
Subject to a council ruling on the existing municipal operational plan, the bylaw would be in place across the UNESCO World Heritage site and would not be retroactive.
In a bid to encourage local citizens and residents to return to the city centre, the City of Florence Council is reportedly planning to write off second home city taxes for three years for any properties currently being used as short-term rentals if owners opt to return the units to the long-term rental market.
It is estimated that over 70 per cent of the 11,000 short-term rentals in Florence are listed within the World Heritage Site, which the council says has led to a reduction of housing stock and a subsequent “emptying out of historical centres”.
The Unesco World Heritage site in the historic centre of Florence already covers the Santa Maria del Fiore [a thirteenth-century cathedral], the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti.
Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence, told AP: “We realise that this would be a bold regulation legally speaking, but we know that we can defend it in legal terms. If we don’t at least attempt to do something politically daring, nothing will change.”
He added: “We are tired of announcements. The problem has become structural.”
Nationally, the Italian government is working to implement legislation that would restrict short-term rental operations across Italy but authorities in a number of cities with historic sites, including Florence, Milan and Bologna have grown increasingly agitated over perceived inaction on the matter.
In March, the mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, doubled down on plans to introduce strict controls on short-term rentals. Last July, the Italian government placed a cap on the the number of days that properties in Venice can be rented out per year at 120 but Brugnaro is yet to enact the rule as the city struggles to find a balance between tourism and overcrowding.
Meanwhile, students in Florence, Milan and Rome have recently camped out in tents to protest against a shortage of affordable housing in the cities.
In 2021, authorities in Florence and Venice sent out a joint ‘Decalogo‘ – translated as the Ten Commandments – to the Italian government with a proposal to restrict short-term rental activities and “reset” the tourism industry that had been so badly hit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the time, the cities urged Italy’s government to qualify ‘holiday rentals’ as those being rented out for less than 30 days at one time and impose a 90-day annual limit on how long short-term rentals can be rented out for tourism purposes. Owners would also be restricted from operating more than two holiday rentals in the same city, otherwise they would need to register as a business and pay higher taxes as a result.
Other initiatives that were suggested as part of the Decalogo include regulating guided tours, imposing harsher punishments on those who damage historical artefacts and property, creating so-called “smart control rooms” to monitor the flow of tourists entering the two cities, and raising the prices for public transport.