If you’re planning on going on holiday any time soon, I’m afraid we’ve got some bad news: the world is currently in the grip of an ongoing “coronavirus” pandemic, meaning continent-spanning restrictions and curfews, along with the high likelihood that someone will reply to your Insta story and call you a “Covidiot” if you step foot outside the UK.
Thanks to a rash of measures being proposed across Europe, you might also find it harder to book an Airbnb. According to a report in The New York Times, “many European cities are seizing an opportunity to push short-term rentals back onto the long-term housing market.” Airbnb, a short-stay subletting platform, has long been criticised for driving up rents for local residents. If you visit, say, Barcelona or Athens, you’ll find the streets adorned with anti-tourist, anti-Airbnb graffiti. Closer to home, it’s hard not to visit Edinburgh — a city, with a Harry Potter theme shop on every corner, where American tourists descend to desecrate the grave of a random 17th Scottish guy who happened to have a kind of similar name to Lord Voldemort — and not think that the rapid proliferation of Airbnb in the city has somewhat ruined its character.
According to the NYT, these new anti-Airbnb measures are taking a number of different forms. Lisbon’s city council is taking over empty apartments and renting them out as subsidised housing, while Barcelona is planning to do the same. Amsterdam has banned holiday rentals in the historic city centre outright; Berlin has threatened a crackdown on Airbnband platforms like it which are “trying to evade regulation and the enforcement of law”, and Paris mayor Anne Hilalgo has promised a referendum on whether the annual rental period on such properties should be limited (the goal of which would be to encourage homeowners not to put them on the rental market.) Back in July, she said: “There are about 30,000 Airbnb-type rentals in Paris, the task is to get them back.”
Airbnb of course, has denied that it’s doing anything wrong. The company’s director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Patrick Robinson, told the NYT: “They’ve set the rules, and we’re following the rules. Where there is a vigorous discussion about the right regulations, we’re part of that conversation, and ultimately that’s for local politicians to decide.”
While it might make that post-COVID city break you’ve been dreaming of a little more expensive, Airbnb being brought to heel would definitely be a good thing. If the trend spreads over to the UK, it could bring down rents here too (and if there’s one thing better than a cheap city break, it’s handing over less of your income to your vile, unscrupulous landlord.) Over in Ireland, the effect on Dublin’s rental market of the COVID-related Airbnb collapse has already been incredibly positive, with rents dropping and flats becoming easier to find. It’s hard to say how long these trends will last, but early research indicates the rent is getting lower in London too, for much the same reasons.