6th July 2021 Christopher Carey
Porto City Council has approved a plan to create a new administrative position to oversee the city’s short-term tourist rental market.
The ‘Local Accommodation Mediator’ will study and report on the interests, concerns and trends affecting all stakeholders in the sector, as well as help to settle conflicts.
In Portugal, the term ‘Local Accommodation’ (LA) refers to properties which are licenced for rental to tourists on platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com.
Ricardo Valente, Councillor for Economy and Tourism, City of Porto, said: “2020 marks the first year in which we had a reduction in the net stock of Local Accommodation licences in the city, a reduction of close to 400.”
However, he noted that many owners are simply waiting for tourism to fully reopen rather than shifting to the long-term residential sector, saying it makes “no sense” for the government to wait for the market to regulate itself.
Currently 7,646 LA establishments are registered in Porto, the equivalent of 12,428 rooms and 23,969 beds.
While Europe has seen a rise in the number of properties listed as long-term residential lets due to COVID-19, cities are now starting to assess whether things will revert to pre-pandemic trends, where local people were often pushed out of the rental market.
In July 2019, Porto City Council voted on new rules and regulations for a ‘containment area’ in the city, which suspended registrations of new LA licences in areas where demand was too high.
This included Porto’s historic centre and Bonfilm area as well as some of the most popular streets.
For years, European mayors have struggled to contain a proliferation of short-term property lets in city centres, lacking data to enforce limits on rental days or the number of properties in a building used for holiday lets.
But surging rents and a lack of availability in the private rental sector for local residents means cities are increasingly taking a more proactive approach.
Last week, a Paris court fined Airbnb €8.08 million (US$9.6 million) after the firm failed to comply with local regulations on listing apartments on the platform.
Commenting on the case, Ian Brossat, Deputy Mayor of Paris with responsibility for housing, said: “This is the first time in France that a community has condemned a digital giant.
“The responsibility of the platforms is finally recognised – a formidable victory for Parisians.”
The landmark ruling followed years of legal wrangling between the city and Airbnb.
In September 2020, a group of European cities including Paris, London, Helsinki and Barcelona called on the European Commission to impose stronger regulations on short-term holiday rental platforms, which could mean requiring companies to share more data with cities to aid oversight.
It followed a March 2020 agreement between Airbnb, Expedia, Tripadvisor and Booking.com to share data with the European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, on the number of nights and guests booked.
Initial data results from the agency are set to be published this month.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.