Cutting the sharing share 

It’s been a tricky few moments of late for everyone’s much-feared/much-used sharing platform – and its peers – with Barcelona banning short-term rentals and house swapping back like it’s the 1970s. 

In Barcelona, the city has played the classic ‘licence then refuse the licence’ trick which owners of big dogs with large teeth are also acquainted with. Forced to register and then, once plotted on the map, eradicated from it. 

Barcelona has enough tourists, thanks, and would like its local residents to have somewhere to live. Mayor Jaume Collboni said: “The city cannot allow such a large number of flats to be used for tourist activity at a time of difficulty of access to housing and when the negative effects of tourist overcrowding are obvious,” with plans to phase out short-term letting by 2029.

As we have discussed before, residential market issues are not all about Airbnb, but it’s certainly some tasty low-hanging fruit for the politician in your life. Expect other cities to follow suit.

Barcelona’s announcement came shortly after the EU announced the start of the two-year implementation period for new short-term rental rules. The EU rules provide (slightly) clearer guidance to platforms and authorities on how to share data and develop proportionate rules, whilst making it simpler for hosts to register with their local authority.

Airbnb’s response was as one would expect: it’s always wanted rules, actually, super glad to have them. Commenting on the issue of housing, it said: “We recognise the acute housing affordability crisis impacting many parts of the EU and the importance of this issue for authorities and communities. Though this is a complex problem with many root causes, we want to ensure that short-term rentals do not exacerbate current challenges. 

“Alongside the effective enforcement of EU STR, we commit to carrying out more research to better understand the impacts of short-term rentals and the role we can play to help.”

Meanwhile, for those who already have a house and haven’t been priced out of the market, home sharing is back. For those who weren’t around in the 1970s, when swapping everything was so massive it was even a kid’s TV show, trading homes with someone else somewhere you wanted to stay was a real thing.

Now it’s back, but online. If you’re reading about this in one of the weekend magazines, this is where people mention The Holiday, and it’s no different here. Home swapping is the perfect home from home for people who only want to pay an annual fee and will take their chances on whatever random Jude Laws may turn up during their stay.

Something for the complaints book, certainly. Is it a concern for the hotel sector or Airbnb? Probably not. It is now more points based, which we do understand, but in a sector that prides itself on aspirational stays, swapping houses for something like yours is not that. It depends on your house, this is true, but if, say, you live in the UK, any house swap will come with a side of ‘and don’t forget to close the sash window* at night or the foxes will get in/the back wall will fall down’ which takes the edge off a bit. 

What’s Airbnb doing about this? On the group’s Q1 call there was talk of its Icons product, where you get to stay in the Up house (hopefully without the attendant catalogue of heartbreaking life experiences) being a new thing and rather popular. An actual product the brand has generated itself, not just a ‘hey, we sell stuff for other people’ platform thing? 

Interesting times and are we now going to see the company flex its impressive branding power? Airbnb KitKats? Perfect for sharing. Airbnb Netflix? Not too many or you’ll get an extra charge. Airbnb Rumours? It’s been a while since we’ve enjoyed a news brand and Elon Musk has certainly created a vacuum. Let’s have it. 

*which sticks to the point of hernia, by the way 

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