Prague and other cities met with European Commission over new Airbnb regulations

A draft of new EU regulations for the digital economy will soon be released, and city leaders want it to cover short-term rentals

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 21.09.2020 11:45 (updated on 21.09.2020)

New Europe-wide regulations for short-term accommodation rentals are planned, as existing rules are insufficient to regulate the digital economy. Representatives of Prague and other major European cities met with European Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager to seek help in regulating short-term accommodation services, such as Airbnb.

City representatives said they were interested in more significant regulation of the short-term accommodation market in order to reduce the negative effects it has on the availability of housing and the quality of life in cities.

“Together with representatives of Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and several other cities, I had a chance to discuss some of the main issues related to the short term holidays rentals with the Vice President Margrethe Vestager,” Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) said.

“Cities need to have tools to ensure that people obey the law. Cities also need to be able to regulate short-term holiday rentals, and need to be able to guarantee our citizens that their city will be safe and that the quality of life will be on a high level, even in the parts of the city that are popular among tourists,” he added.

Following the publication earlier this year of a joint opinion of 22 European cities and major tourist destinations and before the publication of the draft of the Digital Services Act, city representatives presented their proposals to European Commission Vice President Vestager. The proposals included the obligation for digital platforms to share data necessary for effective monitoring as well as a proposal for these platforms to be responsible for the content of offers so there can be better cooperation with authorities and compliance with local regulations.

The increase of short-term accommodation has a significant impact on the availability of long-term rentals in many European cities. Disproportionately high prices and a limited offer of affordable housing are alarming, especially in city centers, according to a City Hall press release.

Residents of European capitals are also increasingly drawing attention to the deteriorating quality of life caused by tourists who use these accommodation services. In addition to the disproportionate increase in prices, there are repeated complaints across Europe about noise, conflicts, health risks and the slow crowding out of stores for daily necessities.

Many cities have adopted local ordinances in response to these problems. Since digital platforms offering this type of service are unwilling to share data with the relevant authorities and local governments, the effort to regulate short-term accommodation is practically impossible, City Hall stated. Individual landlords and platforms benefit from the outdated European legislative framework that was set up before the digital economy emerged.

“Better cooperation between platforms and public authorities will be a prerequisite for a proper enforcement of the Digital Services Act. It will provide a modern and harmonized regulatory framework, and take account of the needs of national and local administrations and compliance with local rules, while providing a predictable environment for innovative digital services,” European Commission Vice President Vestager said.

The European Digital Services Act is an opportunity for the European Commission to tackle these challenges. Cities acknowledge that tourism is an important source of income and employment for many people and they do not oppose this new form of rental. But touristic rental in private homes can only be done responsibly if the necessary regulation is in place, the European Commission stated.