Airbnb flats turn into homes says UK’s Guardian

 In News, Real Estate, Tourism

The Covid-19 pandemic, which saw thousands of flats converted into Airbnb accommodation in Lisbon during the tourism boom years from 2016-2019, has now created another opportunity – to solve Lisbon’s chronic lower and middle class housing problem.

Says the Guardian, Lisbon City Council is offering cash-strapped landlords, whose rental properties have largely remained almost empty because of a lack of tourists this year, the chance to rent out their properties to the city for a minimum of five years.
The newspaper reports that the ‘terramotourism’ (tourism earthquake) pushed up rents and forced the locals out of their traditional neighbourhoods, changing the fundamental character of the ‘bairros’ forever.
According to estimates, up to a third of all the homes in the historic city centre neighbourhoods of Lisbon were rented out to city-break tourists, while a further percentage were ‘shishied up’ into all-mod-con apartments aimed at the French NHR and Chinese Golden Visa immigrants which have swelled the city’s population since 2015.
The Mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina told the UK newspaper, “In a certain sense Covid-19 has created an opportunity. The virus didn’t ask us for permission to come in, but we have the ability to use this time to think and see how we can move in a direction to correct things and put them on the right track.”
The city council has fast-tracked a programme that had already been developed before the pandemic and involved converting some of the city’s 20,000 tourist apartments into affordable housing.
The initiative, billed as a risk-free initiative option for landlords, offers them €1,000 per month by renting out their properties for a minimum of five years. From there, the city takes over by finding tenants and renting homes at a subsided rent capped at one-third of the household’s net income.
Although the property owners will receive less than what they might earn from tourist rental, but they are guaranteed a stable and reliable income stream and the offer to pay three years’ worth of rent upfront.
Lisbon’s policy is a taste of how municipal councils in Europe might use the pandemic to deal with a burgeoning inner city housing crisis and a chance to rethink affordable rented housing for the post-Covid-19 world.
Said LeilanaFarha, a former UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, “I think that governments did realise, maybe in a new way, ‘Oh dear, we have trouble on our hands,’” she said. “But what I’m not seeing enough of is the structural changes that we need.”
That’s where Lisbon is hoping it will be a mould-breaker. The city’s programme comes with a catch, however, for landlords in the historical centre: once their contract with the city is up, they will NOT be able to return the property to the short-term rental market.