A third of Spain’s Airbnb ‘landlords’ own 5 or more homes

Further proof for Airbnb critics that the short-term rental site has grown from a well-meaning 'little earner' to an uncontrollable real estate machine powered largely by corporate greed.

A third of Spain's Airbnb 'landlords' own 5 or more homes
Photos: AFP

A new study by Spanish data analysts is shedding light on the extent to which Airbnb properties in the country are in the hands of agencies and businesses rather just second or first-time homeowners.

According to DataHippo, one third of Airbnb’s homes in Spain are owned by developers and companies with more than five properties in their books.

Top of the list is Villafinca, a property agency that from May to June 2018 had 854 Spain-based properties listed on the global holiday rental site.

In fact, Spain’s ten biggest Airbnb 'landlords' control more than 4,000 ads in major cities and tourist areas across the country.

That’s not to say that Villafinca or any of these other top ten companies own all of the properties but in many cases work rather as intermediaries between the homeowners and those who wish to rent them through online platforms such as Airbnb.

Their sole focus is to increase the professionalism and profits of an industry which appears to have lost sight of its initial concept of collaboration and more authentic experiences for the traveller.

“The level of transparency of these platforms is almost zero and many researchers and groups told us that they lacked data to be able to analyse,” Santiago Espinosa, one of its DataHippo’s founders, told Spanish daily El Diario.

According to their results, 75 percent of landlords in Spain have a single ad, a figure that is usually harnessed by Airbnb to defend that their business model is still based around homesharing.

However, these small hosts represent only 40 percent of the total offer published on Airbnb between May and June 2018.

In the Balearic Islands and the Catalan city of Girona -with more than 20,000 and 15,000 published Airbnb ads respectively – hosts with 5 or more short-term rental homes in the same region manage more than half of the available offer.

In Barcelona and Madrid, less than 40 percent of Airbnb homes are managed by landlords with a single ad.

DataHippo’s findings act as further proof for Airbnb critics in Spain who feel the platform’s increasingly corporate handling is having an adverse effect on long-term city and town residents.

Last May, Madrid's leftwing city hall announced that it planned to make it impossible for short-term rental companies to rent out 95 percent of apartments in the Spanish capital by the end of the 2018.

There have been similar measures proposed across Spain, following numerous cases of greedy landlords throwing out long-term tenants in order to cash in on the tourist flow, as well as complaints about short-term leases pushing up rents for actual residents.

SEE ALSO: Fed-up Spanish cities are bursting Airbnb's bubble



Cities across Europe unite to demand tougher rules for Airbnb rentals

An alliance of 22 cities from across Europe urged the EU on Thursday to enact tougher rules on Airbnb and other short-term holiday rental platforms, accusing them of driving up property prices and squeezing out locals.

Cities across Europe unite to demand tougher rules for Airbnb rentals
Berlin. View of the Zionskirch church (C) in the districts of Mitte and prenzlauer Berg taken on March 3, 2020. AFP

Representatives from Paris, Barcelona, Florence, Berlin and other tourist hotspots met with EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager in Paris to denounce an “outdated” legal framework that prevents officials from cracking down on the web platforms.

The 22 cities are: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Bordeaux, Brussels, Cologne, Florence, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Krakow, London, Milan, Munich, Paris, Porto, Prague, Utrecht, Valencia, Vienna and Warsaw.

Airbnb, which dominates the home-sharing market, has increasingly clashed with municipalities trying to balance much-wanted tourism revenue against growing resentment from residents.

Several cities have imposed restrictions, in particular to combat illicit rentals that they say are siphoning off homes from the affordable housing market.

But officials say that without an EU framework, Airbnb can effectively operate with only minimal oversight, by claiming it is simply a platform to put people in touch with renters.

That stance was bolstered by a European Court of Justice ruling last December, which rejected a bid by Paris to force Airbnb to register as a traditional property rental firm.

“It is time for a new European regulatory approach that serves first and foremost the general interest, which is for us accessibility of housing and the liveability in our cities,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a statement.

The Eurocities alliance wants the EU to force platforms to share their rental data with local authorities as part of the Digital Services Act being prepared by Vestager's office.

They also want Airbnb and other platforms to be held liable when renters fail to abide by local rules, such as caps on the number of overnight stays per year or the required registration of rentals with local authorities.

“Better cooperation between platforms and public authorities will be a prerequisite for a proper enforcement of the Digital Services Act,” Vestager said in a statement after the meeting.

On Thursday, the company voiced supported for the creation of “a more coherent and efficient framework for digital service providers.”

“We are already working with several government and public authorities in Europe to share data that demonstrate the positive impacts of short-term vacation rentals,” it added.