Berlin regulates Airbnb and safely deflates its housing bubble while returning 8,000 rentals to the market

Berlin is one of many European cities that have faced new housing crises — or worsening existing ones — attributed to Airbnb, where homes were converted to unlicensed, super-profitable hotel rooms, driving up housing prices, shrinking rental inventory, and making the city unaffordable for the people who lived and worked there.

The rules were created in 2014, with a two-year grace period. They banned whole-home rentals outright, but preserved limited rights to rent out rooms within homes on a short-term basis. This is one of Airbnb's touted advantages — the ability to stay with locals in their homes — but the majority of Airbnb rentals were for whole-homes.

Other European cities have also created rules intended to limit Airbnb rentals to those that accord with the story that Airbnb is a way for people to occasionally rent out a room, or fill their homes while they're on vacation themselves. In London, homeowners are limited to letting out their flats for a maximum of 90 days' per year, which exceeds these standards — but the rules were posed as a way of allowing for allowing Londoners to fill their homes while taking any reasonable amount of annual holidays.

The Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing has published a report on the effect of the measure's first year, and found that it returned 8,000 units to the city's long-term rental market. More than half of those units had not been used for short-term rentals, but had been left empty, presumably in anticipation of flipping them as property rates rose, due, in part, to the supernormal rental returns Airbnb offers to homeowners.

These returns have been a serious problem for cities around the world. In Santa Monica, landlords can make as much from 3 months' worth of Airbnb rental as they can from renting to Angelenos in need of housing for an entire year. This economic temptation spurred a wave of evictions and speculation, and drove the city to contemplate similar regulations to curb the practice.

The Berlin and London rules are remarkable, because in other cities, Airbnb has spent millions to fight similar proposals, emerging victorious in San Francisco.

Other European cities contemplating Airbnb crackdowns include Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona.

The areas most affected by the vacation rental laws were the inner city districts of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (1,186 former vacation flats), Tempelhof-Schöneberg (763) and Mitte (642), followed by Pankow (407), Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf (357) and Neukölln (184), according to public broadcaster RBB which first published the figures.

Berlin housing law replenishes housing stock for renters [Deutsche Welle]

(Image: Yann, CC-BY-SA)