Excerpt from The Guardian
Barcelona is an extreme case, but certainly the law needs to catch up so Airbnb doesn’t price locals out of their community.
Remember the "sharing economy"? That rhetoric looks more comically disingenuous than ever in light of the news that a single Airbnb user in Barcelona is managing a portfolio of properties that brings in an eye-watering £33,000 a day in high season. Old neighbourhoods are being overrun with short-term tourists and shops selling souvenir tat. Rents for residents are being driven up, in Barcelona as well as Berlin, New York and elsewhere. Airbnb is a parasitic monster that squats over cities and hoovers up vast sums of money through its slimy proboscis. So what can be done?
Airbnb, short for "airbed and breakfast", originally sold itself as a way for travellers to stay in people's spare rooms and get an authentic feel of a foreign culture. This friendly idea is still present in the company's vocabulary – "hosts", not landlords, and "hospitality" in place of "business" – even though the vast majority of its listings are now for self-contained apartments or houses. In Barcelona, it used to cost €250 (£221) for a short-term rental permit. Now that such permits are no longer being issued, they change hands for up to €80,000. It's "sharing" for the rich, maybe, but not for the rest of us.
Barcelona Airbnb host 'manages rentals worth £33,000 a day' Read moreDuring their early rapid growth, sharing economy companies started operations around the world without regard to local laws on the basis that existing regulations had not envisaged the radical and disruptive new ideas they embodied. But the tide slowly turned as the whizzy tech rhetoric wore off and it became clear that Uber was in fact a taxi company and Airbnb was in effect a hotel business.
So should we just ban them? No, as they can be useful services and more attractive than the alternatives. The question is how can they be made to behave better. Consumer boycotts, however well intentioned, don't have the desired effect. The law, however, can. Uber is playing super-nice after Transport for London shocked it last year by refusing at first to renew its licence. So here comes its clean-air plan, involving a 15p-per-mile surcharge on trips to enable its driver to buy electric cars. Regulation works.
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