Brussels has won a court challenge over its plan to regulate its tourist accommodation offer, by cracking down on Airbnb landlords. Authorities in the European capital are now set to impose rules and limits they had proposed in an effort to regain control over the quantity and quality of short-term or tourist lets. The policy faced a court challenge from five large Airbnb providers in the city, who argued it was in breach of European directives and internal market rules. The Court of First Instance rejected the challenge, meaning Brussels-Capital-Region is free to put the new regime in motion.
Jugement historique !— Anaïs.Maes (@AnaisMaes) October 26, 2023
Louer occasionnellement son appartement sur les plateformes : OUI
Retirer des logements du marché locatif pour en faire un produit financier : NON
Le tribunal nous donne raison dans notre lutte contre les airbnbs illégaux!https://t.co/MXwvJeMfMm pic.twitter.com/QEPsCqrYS8
Landlords must now provide evidence to show they meet several criteria, including fire safety certificates, criminal record checks, and urban planning stipulations over building use. Buildings classed as “residential” may not be rented out for more than 120 days a year (30 days less than the average Airbnb, which is rented for 150 days each year according to research by KU Leuven). Owners who breach the rules will face penalties of up to €10,000. According to Short Term Rental Belgium, an organisation representing landlords, as many as 98% of Brussels Airbnbs could be in breach of the rules, meaning just 40 of the 2000 Airbnbs in the Belgian capital would be legally able to operate.
The heart of the city
The new regulations form part of a battle for the heart of the city. Airbnb has condemned the city’s regime as “far too complex”, saying it places disproportionate administrative burdens on accommodation providers.” It also tried to present the issue as a cost-of-living matter for families “who depend on this additional income to make ends meet.” This take, however, fails to take into account the way Airbnb rentals push up the cost of living in terms of rental accommodation, hollowing out the centre of cities and neighbourhoods. In remarks that could have neighbouring Dutch capital Amsterdam smarting, Brussels councillor for urban planning, Anaïs Maes (Vooruit), stressed the importance of meeting the needs of local residents, not just incoming tourists.
We do not want our capital to go down the same road as Amsterdam.Anaïs Maes (Vooruit), Brussels Councillor for Urban Planning,
“The centre of Brussels must not become a sterile environment without housing,” she said.
Tourists welcome but . . .
Arguments over short-stay accommodation, its impact on local communities, rental prices and availability, as well as the quality of life in areas that draw large numbers of tourists, are raging around the world, from Barcelona to Berlin and New York. Echoing the words and sentiment of officials in many such destinations, Maes insisted that “Tourists are welcome but we need to find another solution. I am happy that we can now impose limits before we arrive at a similar situation to that seen in Paris or Amsterdam. Brussels can now enforce its rules.”