Rome plots urgent short-term rental crackdown

Italy: Rome is planning to crack down on the listing of new short-term rentals and drive further regulations across Italy in a bid to stop the “desertification” of historic towns and cities across the country.

It comes amid mounting criticism from residents and the Municipal Government that the renting out of homes to tourists is leading to a rapidly declining local population and the eradication of the capital city’s soul.

While the Eternal City is busy welcoming an influx of tourists ahead of the Christmas holidays, residents are taking the opportunity to list their homes on booking platforms to boost their income. It is estimated that there are now more than 25,000 bed and breakfasts [B&Bs] and holiday homes listed as short-term rentals in Rome [with at least 10,000 said to be operating illegally], which critics say has led to the population of the city’s historic centre plummeting to under 170,000 – a decrease of around 20,000 people in the past three decades.

As a result, authorities in Rome are looking to accelerate the implementation of new short-term rental regulations.

Lorenza Bonaccorsi, president of Municipio Roma I and centre-left Democratic Party politician, is working with Mayor Roberto Gualtieri to put pressure on the national government to enact a law governing short-term rental operations. Bonaccorsi and Gualtieri are also teaming up with tourism councillor Alessandro Onorato on proposals that will be heard at the beginning of 2023 at the Giulio Cesare Hall to halt – or at least limit – the short-term rental boom in Rome’s historic centre, including its UNESCO site spanning almost 1500 hectares.

Onorato said: “Right now, it is much more profitable to let a flat in the centre to tourists than a family or a working person. We have to stop the desertification of the historic centre of Rome.”

Approving a joint brief to “limit the release of concessions for short-term rentals, holiday homes and B&Bs”, Bonaccorsi cites the issues of “environmental, infrastructural and logistical sustainability” for wanting to push ahead with legislation, adding that “the excessive number of B&Bs and holiday homes is killing the soul of the centre”.

Potential restrictions could include ordering an outright ban on new short-term rental listings, reducing the number of listings in certain areas of the centre, placing limits on the proportion of flats per building that can be rented out, or authorising properties to be rented out for a limited number of days each year, as other major capitals across Europe already do.

London, for example, introduced an annual cap of 90 days for which short-term rental hosts can rent out their properties, while Paris brought in a limit of 120 days per year.

The municipality of Rome is calling for tighter regulation of short-term rental operations that are akin to the rules announced in Venice, where the Italian government capped the number of days that properties can be rented out per year at 120 in July. Despite that, the mayor of the city is yet to enact the rule.

Authorities in other historic cities across Italy such as Milan, Florence and Bologna are also discussing potential legislation but they are growing increasingly frustrated with perceived inaction.

In the meantime, the 27 member states of the European Union and the European Parliament are due to meet next year to discuss a data-sharing proposal that would require the major short-term rental booking platforms to provide data on the number of users using their services and on the total nights they stay in listings to national authorities.