By Sito Veracruz and Alessandro Latella, members of Fairbnb Amsterdam

Many articles have been written about the effects of Airbnb on the housing market and on the gentrification of the City of Amsterdam. Recently, The Guardian reported a new movement that started some months ago in Amsterdam called Fairbnb. 

Fairbnb seeks to encourage vacation rentals that comply with the principles of a fair, non-extractive and collaborative economy and its aim is to create an alternative short-term rental platform according to those principles.

Currently in a structure and design phase, Fairbnb has already organized two open meetings and will organize the third one on November 7th. It will be, as from its beginning in September, in the location and with the collaboration of The Waag Society. 

What data tells us
As per data of July 4th 2016, Insideairbnb.com (a platform crunching data from an otherwise cumbersome Airbnb portal) shows that 11’169 listings of the platform (80.6% of Amsterdam’s offer) were entire homes/apartments. Based on occupancy reviews and availability, this website estimated that 5.701 of them have been rented for more than 60 days, with an average of 153 days per year. 

From a citizen perspective, these full-time-rented apartments have been all potentially “lost” to tourism for resident, commuters, and student housing.

As a city, Amsterdam has a fascinating record in combining the most liberal policies and its wish to control social phenomena of the urban context. Lack of transparency is therefore one of the strongest enemy to such goals and especially on such a visible business. Because data and its accessibility is at the center of a fair system, Fairbnb strongly believes that the different stakeholders must also agree on an inclusive data-sharing platform, to leave the communities appreciate their inequalities or existing abuses.

As Joop Lahaise mentioned in his opinion article in Het Parool on 9th of October, Amsterdam is currently facing a dilemma between “echte economie” (real economy) or easy money”, and needs to think strategically.

We believe that in such a weak and overpriced housing market as the one in Amsterdam, even those P2P vacation rentals under city’s regulation contribute to an increase of housing prices and to exacerbate gentrification issues. Although we are aware that the sharing economy is an unstoppable trend, it must be actively understood and designed for fairness, in order to diminish its negative effects as much as possible. Furthermore, we believe that collaborative tourism can have positive effects if it is considered from a commons perspective and counts with the participation of citizens. Both approaches are the base of the Fairbnb movement.

Different reactions in other cities
Not only Amsterdam is facing internal pressure on how to regulate their “sharing economy activities”. It is something currently happening around the globe. Cities’ experiences have shown, however, that the short-term vacation property rental is inclined to escape tight regulations. This has proved to distort the market to the extent where big speculators take advantage of the current grey areas (and lack of transparency) by renting out for big profits (turning homes into hotels), while other above average citizens makes an extra income knowingly contributing to expel residents from areas who could be zoned or affected to other activities.

The Fairbnb movement is global, as are the issues provoked by the lack of regulation or its breaches in many other cities around the globe.

One of the most controversial cases is Berlin, which hard stance in April 2016 proved a 40% drop in offers listed on Airbnb, after ruling a ban on entire houses on the platform. 

More recently, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed the law that makes illegal to advertise entire apartments for periods shorter than 30 days.

In the case of Barcelona, the city requires licensing upfront and is monitoring this through a specific process. The Catalonian mayor Ada Colau has recently redoubled the effort by creating a new professional role (visualizadores) which is aimed at investigating and reporting apartments and homes in case of illegal practices. In addition, the city has fined vacation rental platforms Airbnb and Homeaway because these platforms refuse to apply the rule that establishes that only apartments properly registered can be listed.

Venice, so often compared to Amsterdam for its tourism and geography, is also trying to rethink itself. The Italian platform Reset Venezia claims for a regulation oriented to recover a population that has dramatically decreased in last years. They have worked with Inside Airbnb to certify that 1 out 4 apartments in the historic city are vacation rentals - which means one of the biggest ratios of vacation rentals in a city with one out of every 20 citizens. 

Skills in demand for a co-creation process!
Fairbnb is a call for participation to any citizen willing to contribute to a fair sharing and genuine accommodation platform that:

-    Has transparency as its core-value
-    Is non-extractive and willing to redesign how profit is shared
-    Empowers citizens to think about how tourism could be redefined inside and outside the platform

If you want to contribute, follow our meetup group and join us in our next event on November 7th at Waag Society.

 

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