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Airbnb denies it is pushing up rental and house prices

Thu 29 Sep 2016

Airbnb has denied that uptake of its accommodation services in London have pushed up house and rental prices in the capital.

Speaking to the Press Association, Airbnb’s managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa told journalists that “there is a housing shortage in London, [but] is it because of Airbnb? No. There are a lot of other reasons why prices are high.”

Olivier Grémillon contended that the company, which provides ad hoc short-term accommodation, the length of which is receiving increasing oversight from its host cities, examines regional data to determine whether Airbnb’s operations are likely to affect the local economy. “We look into the data, we see if there something there and if there is, we try to address whether it’s on the tax side, whether it’s on the regulation, (or) the communication of the regulation.”

Earlier this month Iain Wright, the chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, wrote to London’s mayor Sadiq Khan expressing concern that the city’s regulations restricting single-tenant lets to 90 days for companies such as Airbnb are being regularly circumvented, to the detriment of the economy.

In his open letter to the Mayor and to Airbnb and Cllr Clare Kobler of the London Councils umbrella body, Wright wrote:

‘During my Committee’s recent inquiry into the Digital Economy, we heard evidence that while companies such as Airbnb can enable homeowners to unlock economic value by temporarily letting spare rooms, extensive use of Airbnb by professional landlords, contrary to the current law, can help to drive up property prices, compounding issues of affordability in the capital.’

Wright also noted that professional bodies such as the British Hospitality Association are concerned that such practices allow landlords to circumvent fire and health regulations which would normally apply in equivalent cases, permitting unscrupulous landlords to gain an ‘unfair economic advantage’.

Commenting on whether he thought regulations would or should be revised, Olivier Grémillon said: “I don’t think the regulation will be tightened or should be tightened.”

Grémillon also noted that Airbnb is currently in talks with various London councils to address concerns around the issue, stating that “The fact that it creates a reaction is normal.”

Commenting on the fitness of existing regulations, he said: “Is it the best regulation, business wise, that we have globally? No, not necessarily. But there’s been some thinking behind it.”

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