Regulating the short-term rental market

 

Sir, –The bunting is down, the parade floats in storage and the tourists homeward bound. Cities and towns across Ireland celebrated St Patrick’s Day and extended a céad míle fáilte to the thousands of visitors both returning emigrants and tourists.

Our overseas visitors checked into Airbnb accommodation, while the country’s private rental sector experiences a historic shortage of supply. There is a certain irony that families that need accommodation are staying in bed-and-breakfast establishments, hotels and other emergency accommodation while many tourists who in the past stayed in hotels are staying in housing on a short-term let basis.

The theme of this year’s St Patrick’s Day festivities in Dublin was based on “Home: the exploration of my home, your home, our home”. Yet for so many, a home in the cities and towns in which they were reared is an elusive dream. We are witnessing a 27 per cent year-on-year increase in homelessness, with women, children and older people among the 9,000 people who are homeless

Many Airbnb properties can make phenomenal profits with some “rentrepreneurs” earning upwards of €100,000 a year without being registered with the Residential Tenancies Board and without being inspected by local authorities. An Airbnb report states that hosts in Dublin county and city earned €68 million 2017.

Figures supplied by AirDNA show that one Dublin property owner has earned €172,227 for an apartment near Trinity College. In Galway, one owner earned almost €158,000. These earnings illustrate just how lucrative the short-term market, rather than the long-term rental market, can be.

In cities around the world, the rapid rise in Airbnb’s popularity has led to concerns that homes were being diverted from the residential market and repurposed as short-term lets for tourists.

Now is the time to address the proliferation of AirBnB-style platforms, short-term lets and the rise of professional hosting.

We support the introduction of a two-tier regulatory regime for short term lets. This would see the implementation of a strict regime of regulations targeted at entire property, short-term commercial lettings.

A less stringent second-level approach would be taken with those that rent their primary residence for a period of 90 days or less per year. Any policy response should distinguish between casual hosts and professional hosts, and this approach has gained favour internationally and is a sensible distinction to make. For example, similar regulations have been introduced in Berlin, and have resulted in nearly 8,000 properties being returned to the residential market.

It is critical that we get the balance right.

Our cities have to be liveable places for the future and we cannot continue displacing our citizens beyond the city boundaries.

It is critical that we get the balance right. – Yours, etc,

CATHY FLANAGAN,

Communications Executive,

Threshold,

Stoneybatter,

Dublin 7.