LISBON — Lengthy earlier than the coronavirus swept throughout Europe this spring, many cities had been complaining {that a} proliferation of short-term residence leases geared toward vacationers by means of platforms like Airbnb was driving up housing prices for locals and destroying the character of historic districts.

Now that the pandemic has all however minimize off the regular circulate of tourists, many European cities are seizing a possibility to push short-term leases again onto the long-term housing market.

In Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, the town authorities is turning into a landlord itself by renting empty residences and subletting them as sponsored housing. In Barcelona, Spain, the housing division is threatening to take possession of empty properties and do the identical.

Different metropolis governments are enacting or planning new legal guidelines to curb the explosive progress of leases aimed largely at vacationers. Amsterdam has banned trip leases within the coronary heart of the previous metropolis; a Berlin official warned of a crackdown on short-term leasing platforms “making an attempt to evade regulation and the enforcement of legislation”; and Paris is planning a referendum on Airbnb-type listings.

For years, properties rented out for short-term stays have snatched away housing models from native residents in a number of European cities. Lisbon has greater than 22,000 Airbnb listings, in keeping with Inside Airbnb, which tracks listings in cities across the globe. Barcelona has 18,000, and Paris — one of many platform’s largest markets — has almost 60,000.

When vacationers are plentiful, renting a property on a short-term foundation will be extra profitable for house owners than a long-term tenant, one thing that metropolis governments say has distorted housing markets in cities the place provide is already tight. Additionally they accuse on-line platforms of circumventing legal guidelines put in place to guard native markets.

“We can not tolerate that lodging that could possibly be rented to Parisians at the moment are rented all yr to vacationers,” the deputy mayor of Paris, Ian Brossat, mentioned in a telephone interview. Mr. Brossat additionally mentioned he hoped to chop the variety of days per yr {that a} property will be rented by means of platforms like Airbnb — at present 120. He accused the corporate of breaching even that rule.

“Airbnb pretends to respect the legislation, however it’s not the case,” mentioned Mr. Brossat, who has written a e book vital of Airbnb and its affect on cities.

Airbnb denies any wrongdoing, in Paris or elsewhere. “They’ve set the principles, and we’re following the principles,” mentioned Patrick Robinson, Airbnb’s director of public coverage for Europe, the Center East and Africa. “The place there’s a vigorous dialogue about the precise rules, we’re a part of that dialog, and finally that’s for native politicians to determine.”

He mentioned that Airbnb supplied registration particulars and different knowledge to the authorities in main tourism hubs like Lisbon, Paris and Barcelona to assist metropolis officers implement their guidelines. “We really suppose that higher entry to knowledge is the answer right here.” In September, the corporate launched Metropolis Portal, which it says will permit governments entry to knowledge that may assist establish listings that don’t adjust to native rules, similar to unregistered listings.

Probably the most bold initiative is arguably the one in Lisbon, which has began signing five-year leases for empty short-term rental residences. These properties are then sublet at decrease costs to individuals eligible for sponsored housing. The town authorities has put aside Four million euros, or about $4.7 million, for the primary yr of subsidies.

“We entered the pandemic with an enormous strain on our housing market, and we can not afford to exit the pandemic with the identical set of issues,” mentioned the town’s mayor, Fernando Medina. “This program will not be a magic wand, however it may be a part of the answer when it comes to elevating the provision of reasonably priced housing.”

This system is aiming to draw 1,000 residence house owners this yr, and has drawn 200 to this point. Mr. Medina mentioned he was assured that the plan would meet its aim, since a rebound in tourism anytime quickly appears more and more unlikely because the pandemic drags on.

The plan has been welcomed by some neighborhood associations that had criticized native politicians as permitting the town to turn out to be a playground for vacationers and rich traders, a lot of them drawn to Portugal by residency permits and tax breaks supplied to foreigners after the 2007-Eight monetary disaster.

“The coronavirus has helped expose the destructive features of Portugal’s restoration from the monetary disaster, which was pushed by actual property and tourism relatively than a give attention to the fundamental wants of native individuals,” mentioned Luís Mendes, an city geographer who’s a member of a residents’ platform referred to as Residing in Lisbon.

Above all, Mr. Mendes mentioned, the lockdown restrictions used to comprise the coronavirus put the highlight on the housing imbalances in Lisbon. “How will you quarantine in case you don’t have a good home?” he mentioned. “We now have a metropolis corridor that has put ahead an fascinating scheme and is no less than conscious that having a roof is a elementary human proper.”

Nonetheless, some householders don’t think about the town authorities a dependable tenant. Portugal, they are saying, has a historical past of authorized uncertainty and sudden rule modifications at any time when a brand new administration takes workplace.

“If you happen to take a look at the monitor report of the politicians in Lisbon, it’s a fully hopeless one, of incompetence and sometimes corruption,” mentioned Rita Alves Machado, who owns three empty short-term residences round Lisbon. “The town owes cash in every single place, and I simply don’t consider they are going to pay on time or persist with their very own guidelines.”

The regulation of short-term leases has been a drawn-out affair in Europe.

In September, the European Court docket of Justice backed cities trying to crack down on short-term leases, after supporting a French courtroom ruling towards two property house owners illegally renting out second properties on Airbnb. The courtroom had issued a ruling in Airbnb’s favor final yr, saying that it was an on-line platform relatively than an actual property firm, which might have required it to adjust to housing legal guidelines. The European Fee is taking additional steps to control the platform and others by means of a brand new Digital Companies Act, which goals to modernize the authorized framework for such companies throughout the European Union.

The longer the pandemic hinders journey, the extra doubtless initiatives like Lisbon’s are to realize traction, metropolis officers and native property specialists say. Within the meantime, Airbnb has discovered itself on shifting floor.

In Lisbon, occupancy charges for Airbnb and Vrbo, a short-rental reserving web site that was as soon as often known as HomeAway, dropped 50 p.c in Might from a yr earlier, in keeping with AirDNA, which collects trip rental knowledge.

Miguel Tilli, the co-founder of HomeLovers, a Portuguese actual property company, mentioned he had been itemizing as many as 60 new properties a month in Lisbon — nearly all of which had beforehand been rented by means of Airbnb however have been now open to long-term tenants.

Rental costs within the metropolis have dropped 10 p.c because the begin of the pandemic, however landlords who had beforehand let properties by means of Airbnb have been nonetheless proof against lowering rents.

“Many landlords are appearing as if Covid is someone’s else drawback,” Mr. Tilli mentioned. “That can’t final perpetually.”

Raphael Minder reported from Lisbon, and Geneva Abdul from Paris.


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