AirBnB is facing new regulation in Berlin as the city government has banned the renting of entire apartments to tourists.
The move comes on the heels of rising real estate prices in the city — rents have gone up 56 percent from 2009 and 2014. In order to combat an increased cost of living, Berlin is choosing to limit AirBnB renters’ ability to snatch up all of the city’s real estate. As they will be making a near-daily profit, AirBnB owners can often pay more for such apartments, reported The Local.
This market drives down the apartment supply and makes housing unaffordable for many. Berlin’s head of urban development Andreas Geisel backed up the plan as a way to protect Berliners from the negative effects of AirBnB.
“[It’s] a necessary and sensible instrument against the housing shortage in Berlin. I am absolutely determined to return such misappropriated apartments to the people of Berlin and to newcomers.”
Renters in Berlin, through AirBnB and other similar sites, must now have a city permit in order to offer such short-term rentals. The new “Zweckentfremdungsverbot” law went into effect on Sunday, and it has already seen the elimination of 40 percent of the company’s listings in the German capital. That’s perhaps unsurprising given that the fine for violating the new law is up to $113,000.
Of course, this ban in Berlin isn’t the first time AirBnB has faced controversy from city governments. In many cases, however, officials have ruled in favor AirBnB. Local spokesperson for the company Julian Trautwein expressed his hope that Berlin would consider the decisions made by other housing authorities, specifically noting that the company offered many residents an alternative form of income.
“Berliners want clear and simple rules for home sharing, so they can continue to share their own home with guests. We will continue to encourage Berlin policy-makers to listen to their citizens and to follow the example of other big cities such as Paris, London, Amsterdam or Hamburg and create new, clear rules for normal people who are sharing their own homes.”
There has been pushback from AirBnB renters who argue that the change is not allowing them to work. Several Berlin AirBnBers banded together under Apartments Allianz. One renter, who spoke with The Local under an anonymous name, was especially chilled by the request for those who found others violating the new law to report them to authorities.
“In Germany, of all places, maybe we should reconsider this kind of thing.”
Outside of Berlin, AirBnB’s de-regulated take on the sharing economy has also come across other issues on its path to accommodation domination. Racial bias has been a pernicious issue in the company’s offerings. A study from Harvard Business School found that people with African-American names were 15 percent less likely to get a response.
AirBnB user Quirtina Crittenden started the hashtag #AirBnBWhileBlack after noticing this kind of discrimination in her personal experience on the site. It immediately began trending, with experiences reflecting the kind she shared with NPR.
“The hosts would always come up with excuses like, oh, someone actually just booked it, or, oh, some of my regulars are coming in town, and they’re going stay there; I just haven’t updated my calendar. But I got suspicious when I would check back, like, days later and see that those dates were still available.”
Do you think Berlin was right to ban AirBnB for those renting full apartments?
[Photo illustration via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]