European Cities Cite Pandemic in Regulating Airbnb

The cities include Barcelona and Lisbon

Lisbon is one of several cities taking steps to regulate Airbnb.
Berthold Werner/Creative Commons

At its best, Airbnb offers travelers a number of unexpected and charming places to stay in a city — and lets people make extra money from their homes. At its worst, Airbnb can create an environment in which housing prices rise dramatically and what would normally be vacant apartments are used for the service. There’s certainly a balance to be found when it comes to Airbnb and similar services; it’s one that’s only going to come through regulation, however.

It turns out that the pandemic has prompted several cities to do exactly that. Coronavirus has prompted a number of challenges for Airbnb; among them are the measures a number of European cities have taken to regulate the service in light of abundant vacancies due to the pandemic. A new article by Vincent Bevins at Intelligencer offers a great summary of what’s at stake.

“In the wake of the financial crisis, a lot of Portuguese families took advantage of some spare space in their homes to make extra money. That is great,” said Lisbon city councilor Ricardo Moreira. “But it is entirely different when major corporate interests buy up hundreds of properties.”

Lisbon’s response to the crisis involved renting unused Airbnb spaces, and then renting them out to students and workers at lower rates. And, as part of a larger initiative throughout Catalonia, the government of Barcelona recently warned the owners of nearly 200 tenant-less properties that they risked the government taking their space and changing it into affordable housing. As Bevins notes, Lisbon and Barcelona currently have the highest number of Airbnb properties per square mile in Europe. It’s not hard to see why these two cities have been leading the way — but it’s a little harder to predict what might come next.

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