Hidalgo vows to hold referendum on Airbnb in Paris

France: Anne Hidalgo, Paris’ mayor since 2014, is planning to hold a referendum on Airbnb and other platforms’ short-term rental operations in the city this autumn, as part of her six-year plan to lead the post-Covid recovery.

By holding the non-binding referendum, the French-Spanish politician aims to free up more residential accommodation in the capital as she believes many Parisian residents are being priced out of the rental market.

Hidalgo was comfortably re-elected as Paris mayor last month and she quickly laid out her agenda for securing a “greener” future for the city in the wake of the pandemic.

It represents the latest stage in a long-running war of words between Parisian authorities and Airbnb, which has been intensified by the International Olympic Committee’s [IOC] announcement that it was partnering with the home-sharing platform ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics, due to be held in 2024. The deal is set to run for the next five editions of the Olympic and Paralympic Games until 2028.

Hidalgo said: “There are about 30,000 Airbnb-type rentals in Paris, the task is to get them back. We will therefore ask Parisians via a referendum whether or not they would like to see the annual rental period of these apartments limited.

“This will encourage homeowners not to put them on the rental market,” she added.

At the time, Hidalgo wrote to IOC president Thomas Bach to “alert him of the risks and consequences” of the deal and assure him of her “absolute determination to make sure regulations relating to rental platforms are reinforced”, Paris city hall told The Associated Press, something which Bach then downplayed at the sponsorship agreement press conference.

At the time, Jean-François Martins, France’s deputy mayor for sports and tourism, told the AP that Hidalgo was planning to hold the referendum on Airbnb’s presence in Paris if she were to win re-election in 2020.

He said: “She believes that Airbnb has a nefarious impact on housing. Parisians will have the choice between several options, including the possibility to have it banned in certain areas.”

Prior to that, it was announced last February that the city was suing Airbnb for publishing 1,000 illegal rental adverts, which would have cost the company over €12.5 million. Hidalgo told French weekly newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche, that her issue was with Parisians who “treat home-sharing like a business, rather than those who only rent out for a few days a year”.

She said: “The problem is the multi-owners who rent all year round apartments to tourists without declaring them, and the platforms, accomplices, who welcome them.”

Hidalgo’s plans after her mayoral re-election also include:

  • Temporary cycle lanes that were installed during the pandemic will be made permanent to encourage fewer people to use overcrowded public transport, and speed limits will be restricted to 50km per hour on some ring roads
  • Expanded street terraces to facilitate social distancing in restaurants and cafes are likely to be kept on and may mean cars are restricted down certain roads
  • Working more closely with the French Green Party to introduce “urban forests” with more trees and plants planted on embankments and around major landmarks [Hidalgo wants Paris to reach 50 per cent vegetation coverage by 2030]

The proposed vote looks increasingly likely to be held in the autumn, and it could pave the way for mayors in other major global cities to rethink their collaborations with Airbnb and the like.