In recent years, Prague has seen a huge surge in the number of people offering their rooms or apartments for rent. Over the past five years, Airbnb and other similar platforms are estimated to have increased their offer 20-fold.
A quarter of the apartments in central Prague are listed on sites such as Airbnb, say city officials, who blame the services for helping fuel a 50 percent jump in property values since 2013. Residents have petitioned the local government to boost oversight of short-term rentals, and increased regulation of Airbnb Inc. was a central issue in October municipal elections. Candidates pledged to raise taxes, tighten rules, and limit the number of nights flats can be rented each year.
Airbnb says it welcomes regulation and insists it’s helped reduce prices for visitors while offering a more personalized experience than staying in a hotel.
Some economists caution that politicians should be careful in regulating the services. Airbnb and smaller rivals have helped fuel a tourist boom that pumps $5 billion a year into the Czech economy. That’s little consolation for Czechs who’ve seen the median cost of housing surge to 11 times the country’s average annual salary, the highest level in Europe, according to consulting firm Deloitte. In central Prague, prices have almost doubled, to more than 100,000 CZK per square meter, since 2014.
Cities such as Berlin, Barcelona or Amsterdam, have already introduced strict measures to tackle the problems linked with such rents.
In Berlin and Barcelona, for instance, landlords can let individual rooms as long as they use at least half of the apartment for themselves, while in Amsterdam, sharing private homes or flats is limited to 60 days a year.