Airbnb blamed for affordable housing woes

Posted: 2 May 2016 8:51 am
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arrow up moneyAirbnb is being blamed for a lack of affordable housing in some cities around the world, and one has taken action.

The city of Berlin has banned the short-term rental of entire apartments to tourists without a city permit, The Independent has reported. The city will levy fines of up to €100,000, or more than AUD$150,000, on residents breaking the new rules.

The law was passed in 2014, The Independent said, but came into effect from 1 May. The move was in response to a marked decline in the number of properties available for long-term rental, and Berlin’s head of urban development, Andreas Geise, told The Local that the new law would help alleviate housing shortages in the city.

"I am absolutely determined to return such misappropriated apartments to the people of Berlin and to newcomers,” Geise said.

Berlin isn’t the only city to accuse Airbnb, which continues to grow in popularity, of choking off the supply of affordable housing. New York housing advocates took aim at the company over a recent press release claiming Airbnb benefitted “predominantly black” neighbourhoods, The Independent said. Affordable housing groups said the service was actually “ravaging” black neighbourhoods by removing rental units from the market.

“It’s a typical Airbnb puff-piece where they release selective data,” Housing Conservation Coordinators executive director Sarah Desmond told The Independent.

While Airbnb said its service was growing faster in predominantly black neighbourhoods than across the rest of the city, critics claimed the release obscured the fact that the growth was occurring in heavily gentrifying neighbourhoods, The Independent said. Norrinda Hayat, assistant Professor of Law and Director of the Housing & Consumer Law Clinic at University of the District of Columbia, told The Independent Airbnb didn’t actually specify whether the long-term residents of the neighbourhoods were benefitting.

“They’re saying: ‘People in these neighbourhoods are benefitting – we’re not going to say whether they’re black or not. Businesses in these neighbourhoods are benefitting – we’re not going to say whether they’re black-owned or not.’ I think if that were the case, they’d say it. It would help.”

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