Prague’s City Council approved a proposal to join other European cities to discuss short-term accommodation services for tourists. In a joint letter, 10 major European cities are calling on the European Union to improve the legislative frameworks for short-term accommodation platforms.
“Increasing urbanization, together with an increase in tourism and persistent housing shortages, are the main problems our cities face. One of the related problems is that it is increasingly beneficial for property owners to set aside their properties from the long-term accommodation segment and use them for short-term rentals. These short-term rentals are primarily for tourists at the expense of locals and families who want to live and work in our cities,” a statement that has already been signed by the City Halls of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, Krakow, Munich, Paris, Valencia and Vienna says.
“Our cities consistently attract students, teachers, healthcare workers, police officers and all other citizens who want to find their home in them. It is our responsibility to accommodate them as much as possible. However, most of our cities face chronic housing shortages,” the statement continues.
Those problems also extend to Prague. “Prague has also been facing huge problems with affordable housing. Over the past 15 years, Prague’s population has increased by more than 12 percent, which is almost 150,000 [people] in absolute terms. At the same time, Prague is also a popular destination for tourists from all over the world,” City Councilor Hana Kordová Marvanová (United Force for Prague), responsible for legislation, public administration and housing support, said on the City Hall website.
“In the past 10 years, traditional accommodation has been significantly increased by the way of accommodation through online platforms offering short-term accommodation,” she added.
Data from the Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR Praha) shows that, for example, in 2017 around 3 million tourists were accommodated via Airbnb in Prague. According to IPR data, almost 11,500 flats are used for short-term accommodation in Prague, with one-fifth of flats used for that in the historical center of Prague. In Old Town, it is as high as one-quarter.
“From an international comparison point of view, the available data indicate that, for example, Airbnb offers more accommodation in Prague than in Budapest, Warsaw or Vienna, the cities in our immediate neighborhood,” Kordová Marvanová said.
Prague also has an above-average share of entire properties not shared with the host, meaning the host does not live there, as well as an above-average share of hosts offering two or more properties. In the case of Prague, there is a significant deviation from the principle of shared short-term accommodation, which is evident, for example, in Germany.
“The provision of short-term accommodation services for apartments, especially those in the center, entails various negative phenomena, ranging from ineffective monitoring of taxes and charges, to nuisance for local residents to security risks associated with the movement of large numbers of strangers in homes. For these reasons, it is more than desirable for Prague to join the call to the European Commission initiated by 10 European cities facing a similar situation as regards short-term accommodation services offered via online platforms,” Kordová Marvanová added.
The cities that have signed the letter that Prague also wants to join see the main problem as outdated European-level e-commerce legislation created before the rapid development of online platforms offering shared accommodation over the Internet. According to the cities, there has been an increase in overnight stays in European cities by more than 50 percent over the last 10 years.
“Prague, like the cities that joined the statement, sees the biggest problem in the fact that platforms are not obliged to share rental data with tax and fee administrators, and in the difficult enforcement of platform liability legislation in countries where they do not have platform headquarters. Adjustment on the European level in the area of short-term rental via online platforms would create a much-needed uniform framework from which national and / or regional regulations governing this activity could derive,” Kordová Marvanová said.
Prague has attempted in the past to regulate Airbnb in the past by trying to crack down on hosts not paying the required fees and taxes. The city has also been removing key boxes chained to public property.
Airbnb was first introduced in the Czech Republic in 2009. Expert analyses show that Airbnb’s sales volume in Prague has already reached the sales volume of traditional accommodation facilities, according to CzechTourism.
Apart from Airbnb, there are also other services available on the market such as Flipkey, HomeAway, House Trip, Vacation Rentals or Vrbo.