by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, May 11, 2018
Valencia is the latest popular holiday destination poised to impose restrictions on private holiday rentals, such as Airbnb, with a focus on banning new tourist accommodation above first floor level.
The rules, to be voted on by the Valencian regional government, would effectively limit the number of properties with Mediterranean sea views, or vistas over the futuristic Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències or winding Turia river park.
The Spanish coastal city would be following in the footsteps of the likes of Amsterdam, Barcelona and Reykjavik, which have all sought to mitigate the impact of mass tourism on their housing markets. The number of people visiting Spain has spiked in recent years thanks to instability in alternative holiday hotspots such as Egypt and Tunisia.
In Valencia, which welcomed a record number of visitors last year, passing 100,000 for the first time, the council is planning to limit new holiday rentals to ground and first floor apartments, while forbidding any new properties in Ciutat Vella, the city’s historic centre.
“With this new legislation, councils can take back control of what properties may be used for, and in Valencia we are going to impose an important barrier to ensure the trend does not grow in the future,” Sandra Gomez, the city’s deputy mayor, told the Local.
The regulations will also ensure that anyone renting out an apartment to tourists has the correct licence. Gomez estimates that 70 per cent of the 5,000 holiday rentals in the city do not have the appropriate permissions.
Last month Palma in Majorca became the first Spanish city to completely prohibit apartment rentals to tourists. The mayor of the Balearic Islands capital said the ban, which will apply from July, was aimed at keeping Palma a “habitable city” and preventing residents being forced out by rising prices.
A study of the accommodation in the city found 20,000 unlicensed flats, a rise of 50 per cent between 2015 and 2017.
In Barcelona, too, a dramatic rise in tourist numbers has cultivated a growing tension between locals and holiday landlords, with the council announcing a moratorium on hotel openings in the city centre and additional restrictions on accommodation licences.
Next month, a court in Paris will hear a lawsuit filed by the city against Airbnb for failing to remove undocumented listings from its site. The city’s housing department is concerned that as many as 85 per cent of renters are operating without the proper licence.
In Berlin, however, the city has overturned a ban imposed on new Airbnb properties in 2016. Conditions remain on how owners can rent out their properties - with hefty fines for breaching them - but the German capital is allowing once again unlimited rentals for own homes and 90 day-a-year caps on second homes.
In the wake of Palma’s decision to restrict holiday rentals in the city, an Airbnb spokesperson called for “progressive home sharing rules”, adding: “This is a decision against local families who share their homes to make ends meet and help them be able to stay in their homes. Airbnb strongly believes that rules should help spread tourism benefits to local families and their communities - not keep them in the hands of a wealthy few."
Last month Airbnb launched an “office of healthy tourism” focussed on how to “drive local, authentic and sustainable tourism” in countries and cities around the world.
“With travel and tourism growing faster than most of the rest of economy, it is critical that as many people as possible are benefiting - and right now not all tourism is created equal. To democratise the benefits of travel, Airbnb offers a healthy alternative to the mass travel that has plagued cities for decades,” said Airbnb’s head of policy and communications, Chris Lehane.