Airbnb has long been a reliable way to find a homestay. Since its inception in 2008, the site has hosted more than 7 million homes around the world where travelers can stay in a room, or rent an entire house out for themselves. Recently, many cities have been cracking down on short-term stays, citing safety issues, false listings, and rising property prices which push people out of their homes when housing becomes used just for Airbnb rentals. What are cities doing about these issues? What is Airbnb doing to help remediate them? And will Airbnb be viable for much longer?
From 2015 to 2019, the number of Airbnb listings in London nearly quadrupled, forcing much of the capital city’s housing supply to be owned and operated as short-term rental units. By mid-2019 alone, 80,770 properties in London were listed on Airbnb with almost a quarter of those in breach of the city’s 90-day limit or a rule that states a property cant be rented out on Airbnb for more than 90 days of occupied nights each year. Even more astonishing, data reports showed that across all of these listings, just one percent of hosts were responsible for 15 percent of the active listings at that time. It’s also estimated, using third-party data measurement tools, that 30 percent of hosts in London have at least three listings on the platform, further showing how Airbnb ownership has quickly become a monopoly of sorts.
Airbnbs aren’t just a concern in London’s center, the growing short-term rental market impacts even the sprawling suburbs and outer boroughs. Nearly 10 percent of the housing stock in Camden and Westminster is listed on Airbnb, for a total of 7,000 entire properties, half exceeding the 90-day limit. The most concerning aspect is that 6,000 families are currently listed on the council’s housing waiting list. Many council members feel that short-term rentals are growing out of control and exacerbating the housing shortage.
London isn't the only place that feels the impact of the growing number of Airbnb listings. New York City has also implemented a 90-day limit of its own with even more restrictions. Additionally, home rentals of fewer than 30 days are not permitted unless the permanent resident (or Airbnb operator) is present in the unit. The city is already pushed to its limits with astronomical housing prices caused by a tight housing supply. These rules are becoming increasingly difficult to enforce, especially with the number of rentals violating these laws. Visitors who rent these stays claim that they help the city’s economy by providing more options, but city officials want tourists to stay in hotels, an industry that suffered greatly during the pandemic.
In just a few days, New York City may release a new set of rules to further limit the number of Airbnbs available to rent. The new rules would require hosts to submit apartment floor plans to the city, provide proof that the home is their permanent residence, submit their lease documents, and prove an understanding of the city’s multiple dwelling laws. Hosts would be prohibited from putting locks on doors where residents stay, and have to comply with other rules to protect visitor safety. Any infractions would result in hefty fines by the city. The push for these strict laws comes as a recent study found that there are more Airbnb listings than open apartment inventory across the city. In a Curbed report, less than 8,000 units were available to rent across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Northwest Queens in April of this year. At the same time, Airbnb listed 10,572 rooms or entire homestays for rent, with another data listing, Inside Airbnb, projecting that there were 20,397 listings at that time.
Will more restrictions help ensure that Airbnbs are operating legally worldwide, and how might it be possible to enforce these laws? It’s possible that Airbnbs will have to completely reinvent themselves to become longer-term stays to accommodate these rules, and that check-ins to a stranger's home for a weekend away may soon not be as seamless.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 29, 2022.