Alex Schwarz, General Manager, Germany
Across Berlin – from Pankow to Neukölln, Friedrichshain to Reinickendorf, Steglitz to Köpenick – Airbnb hosts bring innumerable benefits to their communities by sharing their homes and the city they love.
But the interpretation of the Berlin housing law by some policymakers has caused a lot of confusion for local residents, politicians and independent experts. While many Airbnb hosts can continue to share their space, recent attempts to clarify the law – with officials releasing different and conflicting statements on how Berliners can use their homes – have only caused further confusion.
In my opinion, the views of Airbnb and the Berlin Senate are closer than many have described. We both want the same thing – Berlin homes for Berlin residents.
To be clear, the vast majority of Airbnb listings in Berlin are local residents’ homes. They have not been removed from the housing stock and cannot be returned – whether a spare room or the entire place when the host is out of town. Neither, therefore, should fall under Berlin’s housing law.
Berlin’s interpretation of the law is confusing for local residents; they have called for clarity and echo concerns from politicians and independent experts about the law and its impact on locals.
The question for Berlin is two-fold. Why does home sharing – whether a spare room or the entire place when the host is out of town – fall under Berlin’s housing law? And will targeting local residents who occasionally share their homes to pay the bills really return homes to the Berlin housing stock?
Airbnb hosts are regular, local residents who share their homes to pay the bills and afford the city they love.
Airbnb began as a tool to help regular people stay in their homes and afford rent. Today, thousands of Berliners are doing the same, occasionally sharing the home in which they live to afford their homes and the city they love.
Recent figures show Airbnb boosts the earnings of the typical Berlin host by €1,800 a year and helps them stay in their homes. Hosts attract new visitors to Berlin who want to live like a local and spread benefits to more families, communities and local businesses.
Today we released more new data about Airbnb hosts and the homes they share with guests from around the world. It shows that Airbnb hosts are regular Berliners who share their space to stay in their homes and the city they love. The vast majority share their primary residence, have only one listing and share their space for fewer than 90 days.
New data also shows that Airbnb hosts, guests and listings are increasingly found outside the tourist hotspots in the communities regular Berliners call home. It shows that Airbnb listings are different to other forms of accommodation in the city and help people stay in their homes, and that Airbnb guests want authentic local travel experiences in the homes of local residents. That’s what travelling on Airbnb is all about.
Whether a spare room or the entire place when the host is out of town, Airbnb helps make Berlin more affordable for local residents. It doesn’t remove housing from the market.
Berlin’s housing law is disproportionate and confusing for regular Berliners.
We share policymakers’ view that Berlin homes should remain for Berlin residents, and we oppose unwelcome commercial operators on Airbnb.
We also know that Berlin’s housing issues pre-date Airbnb, and we regularly hear from hosts who rely on home sharing to stay in their homes and how the additional income helps them to pay the rent. They include hosts like Katrin, who shares a room in her family home to support her income as a freelancer, and Gesine, who relies on occasionally sharing her home to pay her rent. She says she would need social welfare if it wasn’t for hosting.
Regular Berliners have joined hosts in calling for clear and simple rules that distinguish between occasional home sharers and professional accommodation providers, like other major European cities.
We know policymakers are under pressure to show progress on Berlin’s housing issues – especially with an election on the horizon. But rather than preserving Berlin homes for Berlin residents, current rules risk having the reverse effect. For many thousands of local residents who share their homes, the Berlin housing law threatens to cut an economic lifeline that helps makes Berlin affordable.
We are stronger together. Cooperation is good for Berlin.
Around the world, Airbnb is working with governments on progressive measures to help make cities more affordable and support local residents who share their homes. Cities like London, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Milan and Lisbon have all introduced clear and simple home sharing rules, and we are working with governments to promote the rules and responsible home sharing.
We are working with policymakers to make good on the commitments in the Airbnb Community Compact – our pledge to how we want to work with cities – and build a responsible and transparent community of home sharers. We aren’t perfect, but we are learning more every day. We want to work with Berlin to help support local residents who share their homes to pay the bills, help visitors discover communities beyond the city centre and work together to tackle unwelcome commercial operators.
We regularly hear from hosts who want to follow the rules and we want to help, but the current situation in Berlin is confusing for everyone. Local residents and politicians have raised concerns about the law and its impact on locals, housing expert Daniel Hofmann from GEWOS said Airbnb is not the cause of Berlin’s housing issues.
We believe that regular Berliners should benefit from visitors to their communities and will continue to encourage the government to follow the lead of other major cities that have introduced clear, simple and progressive home sharing rules – for the good of everyone in Berlin.