Increased transparency and free access to critical information on short-term rentals in order to fight illegal activities and ensure the availability of affordable housing for local communities: these are the main requests that European cities and regions addressed to the EU institutions through an opinion drafted by Roberto Ciambetti, President of the Veneto Regional Council, adopted by unanimity on 15 March at the plenary of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).
Tourism is a strategic sector for the European Union: it comprises over 10% of the EU's gross domestic product and provides jobs for 26 million people. Short-term accommodation rentals represent nearly one-third of the total EU supply of tourist accommodation, and this has been boosted by the rise of online platforms. While EU institutions have been elaborating long-awaited new rules on short-term rentals, local and regional leaders have been drawing attention to the implications of a sector that, over the years, has created opportunities for travellers, SMEs and local economies, especially in rural areas, but has also raised concerns in big European cities facing excessive tourism flows and a growing demand for affordable housing.
The rapporteur Roberto Ciambetti (IT/ECR), President of the Veneto Regional Council, said: "The short-term rental sector continues to grow at an exponential rate and requires a common framework and harmonized set of rules to ensure transparency in the sector. This opinion intends to protect tourists, tenants and platform managers in order to counter illegal practices and forms of unfair competition. The tourism market needs legal barriers that protect all stakeholders to safeguard the local socio-economic context by tackling phenomena such as overtourism and gentrification without compromising the economic benefits that the short-term rental sector offers."
The lack of clarity and transparency so far has prompted a significant number of EU cities and regions to implement unilateral measures to monitor and limit the activity of short-term rental services, such as putting a cap on the number of days that a property can be rented out, tightening tax collection, and banning short-term rentals of specific types of buildings or in specific areas. The opinion therefore welcomes the European Commission's proposal for a regulation that aims to increase transparency about short-term accommodation rentals by improving data collection and sharing.
Better transparency leads to better policy-making, and local and regional authorities contend that they need free access to data in order to be able to monitor and regulate a sector that has a wide range of implications across European territories. In areas where online platforms are very active, for instance, the impact on the real-estate market is considerable: house rentals and house prices typically go up, leaving fewer properties available for locals.
Although as of 1 January 2023 online platforms have had to start communicating information to tax authorities on income earned by people renting out property, regional and local leaders are concerned about the different reporting requirement under the EU rules and the current draft regulation and wish to make it clear that cities and regions must have access to data in order to tailor their tourism, transport, housing and other policies accordingly. In addition, the CoR opinion calls for further investigation into the criteria to distinguish between professional and occasional hosts so as to guarantee proper access to the market and remove unnecessary obstacles, particularly for small operators, while applying more stringent rules to professionals.
Data shows that in 2022 the tourism sector recovered significantly from the effects of the pandemic. During the first nine months of last year, 450 million nights were spent in beds booked through one of the four major online collaborative economy platforms (Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group, Tripadvisor), an increase of 57.4% compared to 2021. Five regions had more than 4 million guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation: Andalucia in Spain (6.5 million), Jadranska Hrvatska in Croatia (5.5 million), Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in France (5.2 million), Catalonia in Spain (4.6 million) and Île de France (4.1 million).
In November 2022, the European Commission presented a long-awaited proposal for a regulation on data collection and sharing relating to short-term accommodation rental services. The proposal, originally planned for the first semester of last year, was unveiled after a public consultation that collected a particularly high number of responses.
On 31 January 2023, the opinion was adopted by the CoR Commission for Natural Resources after a debate attended also by representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the housing industry, including Emmanuel Marill, Airbnb's Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa. A summary of the debate is available here.
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