Hammering Airbnb will not solve the housing crisis

Report set to recommend restricting short-term rentals in Dublin, Cork and Galway

It is neither a crime nor an outrage to let out an investment property on Airbnb instead of renting it full-time to a private tenant

It is neither a crime nor an outrage to let out an investment property on Airbnb instead of renting it full-time to a private tenant

 

The Government is about to receive a report from an expert group that will recommend a form of regulation for short-term accommodation rentals, with the aim of restricting them in busy cities such as Dublin, Cork and Galway.

While the rules, whenever they are brought in, won’t apply exclusively to Airbnb, the site is the blue whale in the bathtub of the short-term rentals sector.

The expert group is expected to recommend a licensing system, with restrictions on the number of days that landlords can let out their properties for short-term rentals. The cap will likely fall somewhere between 90 days and 120 days a year.

This measure will be restricted to areas where there are housing shortages, with the clear aim of coercing landlords into returning their properties to the long-term rental market. Dublin is the main target.

Reference is frequently made in the media to “rogue landlords” who rent out whole properties on Airbnb instead of renting them to families. And where landlords are renting out on Airbnb full-time without planning permission, if it is required, this needs to be addressed.

But let’s slow down with the “rogue” rhetoric. It is neither a crime nor an outrage to let out an investment property on Airbnb instead of renting it full-time to a private tenant who then has the protection of rental caps. It is a business decision.

At most about 600 homes in Dublin are rented out full-time on Airbnb, most in prime city centre locations. How many will be coerced back to the private rental fold under the new regime? 200? 300 tops? That’s the equivalent of about two new large housing estates.

The housing shortage is a self-inflicted wound that the State could rectify by building thousands of new homes. But it has chosen not to do that, in part for ideological reasons.

Squeezing Airbnb won’t solve a housing crisis that was in gestation long before the site was in existence. Airbnb is also filling in for the choking shortage of hotel rooms in the capital, which isn’t its fault either.

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