Lisbon mayor Fernando Medina has pledged to ‘get rid of Airbnb’ once the coronavirus pandemic is over.
In a text written in English for the UK’s Independent, Mr. Medina admits that a third of the city center has been lost to holiday rentals, incurring incalculable social consequences.
The new Renda Segura (Secure Income) program launched in the Portuguese capital aims to enable key workers to return to the city center after being priced out due to a tourism boom.
The program works like this: Landlords afraid of their apartments lying empty can apply to rent them to the municipality, for a minimum term of five years. The city in turn takes on the burden of finding tenants, through an affordable housing program targeted at young people and lower-income families.
Rents are capped at levels between 450 euros per month for a one-bedroom to 1,000 euros for a generously sized house. For landlords, the income from these fixed rents might be lower than they could have earned from renting to tourists, but it is at least risk and hassle-free, and exempts them from both property and capital gains taxes.
The aim is to sign up 1,000 rentals this year. So far they have had 177 applications.
“We’ve paid a social price,” said Medina. “Essential workers and their families have increasingly been forced out as Airbnb-style holiday rentals have taken over a third of Lisbon’s city center properties, pushing up rental prices, hollowing out communities and threatening its unique character.”
In a statement, Airbnb said that it “helps local families stay in Lisbon and 60 percent of local hosts say the additional income they earn from hosting means they can pay the bills and support their families.”
Medina’s plan does not mean “we don’t want tourism or need visitors to return to Lisbon as quickly as possible”, he adds.“It’s simply time we do things differently and visitors will ultimately benefit”.
The Portuguese capital is not the only European city hoping to curb Airbnb’s prospects.
Ian Brossat, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of housing, said in May that COVID-19 and subsequent fall in short-term rentals provided the city with “a unique opportunity to switch properties previously listed on Airbnb to conventional rentals and ensure that they again benefit Parisians.”
The French capital is looking at buying properties bought as investments and leased exclusively as short-term rentals from landlords who have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 crisis.
Amsterdam banned short-term vacation rentals in three central neighborhoods from July 1. Since the start of the pandemic, the Dutch city has seen 21% more rental homes on the market compared with the same time last year, an increase attributed to the decline of Airbnb’s business.