IN THE REALM of modern travel, accommodation and housing, Airbnb has always been a disruptor. It’s been the rebel child of the tourism industry, kicking down the door of the boys’ club that is the traditional hotel scene with its unique homestays and easily accessible charm. But as with all rebels, authorities are rarely pleased with their exploits. New York City has decided enough is enough and has brought the hammer down on short-term Airbnb rentals.
Starting this week, Airbnb hosts in New York City will be following a strict new set of rules and regulations if they want their homes to be available for short term rentals. Under the new rules, rentals under 30 days are only allowed if hosts register with the city. Hosts will also need to still be living in their homes for the duration of guests’ stays. And only two guests can stay in an Airbnb at a time. It’s safe to say that short-term Airbnb rentals are effectively dead in New York. Who wants to spend their stay with a homeowner watching their every move? No thanks.
Technically long-term rentals are still allowed in New York, but short-term stays are where Airbnb makes most of its money. The ban is a huge blow to Airbnb, and the bad news doesn’t stop there. Legislators have been cracking down on the business worldwide, and stricter regulations could soon come to Australia. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is New York banning Airbnb?
Once upon a time, Airbnb was the darling of both travellers and hosts. It was the bridge between the adventurous globetrotter and the homeowner looking to make a few extra bucks. It seemed like the perfect match made in accommodation heaven, but that relationship has come at the expense of local renters, who have been forced out of the housing market by landlords preferring the quick cash boost of a short-term stay, over a steady flow from a long-term renter.
In New York, Airbnb hosts controlled so much of the housing market that apartments essentially became hotels, rather than homes, resulting in a shortage of affordable homes for actual residents of the city. “In New York City, residential apartments should be for residential use,” said Murray Cox of housing advocacy group Inside Airbnb. The ban aims to alleviate the housing crisis by forcing landlords to either settle for long-term rentals or sell their properties altogether.
Unsurprisingly, Airbnb isn’t too pleased with the ban. Theo Yedinsky, the company’s global policy director, said the changes will be detrimental to the “thousands of New Yorkers and small businesses in the outer boroughs who rely on home sharing and tourism dollars to help make ends meet.”
“The city is sending a clear message to millions of potential visitors who will now have fewer accommodation options when they visit New York City: ‘You are not welcome,’” Yedinsky said.
Let’s be honest, most people usually aren’t on their best behaviour when staying in an Airbnb. So, in a shocking turn of events, guests’ unsavoury conduct was not a motivating factor in New York’s Airbnb ban. But we wouldn’t be surprised if plenty of New Yorkers are thrilled they won’t be having a revolving door of strangers traipsing through their neighbourhoods and partying until the early hours of the morning anymore
Has Airbnb been banned anywhere else?
Airbnb hasn’t only the drawn the ire of New York legislators. Cities, and entire countries, are cracking down on the company’s operations. In Paris, Airbnb’s can only be rented out for a maximum of 120 days a year. In London, it’s 90 days. It’s 7-10 weeks a year in Germany. In the Netherlands, it’s just 30 days. And Spain requires all short-term rentals to last at least 30 days. Alert the group chat: the dream of jet-setting across Europe while utilising brief homestays is harder than it sounds.
Outside of Europe, the maritime city-state of Singapore has rendered Airbnb useless for most travellers. To book an Airbnb in Singapore, you’ll be required to stay for a minimum of three months—much longer than the typical overnight layover experienced by travellers who frequent the hub.
Will Australia ban Airbnb?
Australia is in the midst of its own housing crisis, and some cities already have restrictions on Airbnb. But there’s nothing in the works in regard to a wholesale ban. However, with major cities facing housing shortages, Australian lawmakers aren’t simply sticking their heads in the ground and ignoring the issue.
In Sydney, Airbnb hosts are already limited to renting their properties for a maximum of 180 days a year. While last month, Victoria passed new legislation introducing a 7.5 per cent levy on short-term rentals, but not their long-term counterparts. The idea is that the states 40,000 residents with second homes will now opt for longer rentals over holiday stays to save on extra taxes.
Australia’s smaller towns are facing quite a different conundrum. Seasonal destinations throughout the nation rely heavily on the tourism industry, with brief windows of tourist activity boosting the economy enough for these towns to sustain themselves. Holiday homes and rentals comprise a large proportion of these towns and owners are unwilling to sell, meaning locals can’t find a place to stay. The banning of short-term rentals in these towns could have a disastrous impact. Sure, the locals would be able to afford their own places, but the tourism industry, which is central to the towns’ economy, would be decimated.
Is this the end of Airbnb?
Not necessarily. While Airbnb is getting the boot in some places, it’s still thriving in many others. Plus, the platform has evolved to adapt to changing regulations. Airbnb Experiences, for example, has emerged as an alternative source of income for the company, offering tourists a chance to immerse themselves in local culture with activities, rather than contributing to housing crises. Airbnb may be pivoting its business model, but it’s likely here to stay—strictly long-term, of course.