“Global issues require global dialogue“: How the world plans to tame Airbnb

Hotel chiefs and city planners from around the world met for the first time this month to discuss how to regulate Airbnb-style platforms.

Representatives from Australia, the US, Canada, France, Spain, the UK, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Japan, Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina met in New York to discuss strategies for dealing with Airbnb-style lets moving forward.

The home-share giant and its imitators have been blamed by numerous jurisdictions across the globe for exacerbating housing shortages, damaging communities by squeezing out long-term tenants and contributing to anti-social guest behaviour through badly-regulated bookings.

Industry players claim the lack of a level playing field for unregulated short-lets and traditional providers is disadvantaging the accommodation sector, even as a growing number of hotels choose to list with Airbnb.

Airbnb, meanwhile, argues city authorities are too often in thrall to the powerful hotel lobby and encourages its hosts to protest legislative proposals it deems unfair or onerous.

Vijay Dandapani, conference organiser and CEO of the Hotel Association of New York City, said there was “a commonality of negative outcomes” around the world caused by the proliferation of short-term lets.

“Short-term rental platforms treat these as isolated events, particular to that city, but that is not the case,” he told BuzzFeed News.

“What happens in Perth is almost identical to what we face here in New York City.”

Dandapani argues because the challenges are similar around the world, a collective response is needed.

“We’re a fragmented industry versus the platforms. There are maybe just three to four of them and they have a global unified strategy,” he said.

Sergi Mari, manager of tourism, commerce, and markets for the Barcelona City Council, said while regulation ultimately falls to local authorities, exchanging experiences to better understand the global picture is important.

New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson told BuzzFeed News, “Twenty-first-century problems require complex solutions, and global issues require global dialogue.

“Lots of cities around the world are trying to figure out how to deal with short-term rentals, and I think it’s important to have an international exchange of ideas as we try to deal with this issue thoughtfully.”

Different authorities around the world have reacted to Airbnb-style platforms with widely varying levels of stringency.

The City of New York is acknowledged as one of the toughest and is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Airbnb and Homeaway over a law demanding the short-let platforms reveal the personal details of hosts for accountability purposes.

Melbourne, meanwhile, has been heavily criticised by the hotel lobby for the laxness of its legislation on Airbnb-style rentals, which entirely fails to regulate standalone houses despite a spate of violent brawls at upmarket homes rented as party pads.

According to Buzzfeed, Airbnb public policy spokesperson Josh Meltzer is keen to discuss a solution moving forward.

“After years of fighting, the reality is that we both remain in this same position, with the big hotels on one side and our host community on the other… For our part, we are more than willing to come to the table,” he said.

But it is the shrinking of affordable housing stocks through the advent of commercial Airbnb that is most troubling according to David Wachsmuth, a professor at Canada’s McGill University.

He said: “There’s empirical evidence that the more Airbnbs you have, the higher rents and housing prices get. It’s easy to understand on a simple, logical level – you reduce supply, but you don’t change demand for housing – and that intuition is correct.”

A paper released earlier this year by economists Kyle Barron, Edward Kung and Davide Proserpio challenges that assumption, according to Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith.

Smith argues the research shows the impact of Airbnb on New York rents to be very small, with a one percent increase in Airbnb listings across the city found to have raised rents by 0.018 percent.

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