Berlin bans Airbnb-style holiday rentals to tackle housing shortage

As new regulations on the short-term subletting of flats come into effect in Berlin, authorities expect a boost to the German capital's strained rental market

The so-called misappropriation ban came into effect on May 1, with local government officials estimating that it could lead to an extra 10,000 properties being made available for long-term tenancies.

Preceeding the introduction of the stricter regulations, Airbnb - a popular website that allows people to rent their flats out to tourists looking for cheap accommodation - removed scores of apartments from its database.

Under the new rules, which were announced in February, people can still rent out a spare bedroom in their flat. Holiday apartments, however, in which the property is rented in its entirety to tourists, are not allowed.

Anyone found flouting the new ban could face a fine of up to 100,000 euros (114,885 dollars).

Berlin exercises a huge pull on people from outside of Germany, whether it's tourists or prospective workers and students - but the city has become a victim of its own success, as the housing market struggles to accommodate a growing number of people.

The Berlin Senate estimates that up to 10,000 flats are advertised to tourists on internet platforms such as Airbnb - about the same amount of flats built each year in the city.

Senator Andreas Geisel called the new measure "a necessary and reasonable instrument against the housing shortage in Berlin."

However, the ban alone is unlikely to solve the housing shortage completely, with registered holiday apartments making up less than 1 per cent of the city's rental market.

More than 20,000 Berliners rented their properties to tourists via Airbnb in 2015, according to figures released by the website. Each host earned an average of 1,800 euros during that time, and many of them told Airbnb that they would not have been able to afford the property otherwise.

"We are losing our financial footing," said Stephan la Barre of Apartment Allianz, a group of 60 commercial providers of furnished holiday homes who oppose the ban.

Together with peer-to-peer property rental site Wimdu, Apartment Allianz is to make case against the new rules in a court hearing on June 8.

Last update: Mon, 02/05/2016 - 13:14

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