Italian cities are the latest subjects of concern that Airbnb is pushing permanent residents out of historic city centres and aiding a trend in ‘Disneyfication’ in places such as Florence, according to a new report from the University of Siena.
The authors behind the report claim that up to one in five properties in the historic centre of Florence is being rented out through Airbnb, turning the feted city into a “theme park for tourists”.
“Almost 20 per cent of the entire housing stock in the historic centre of Florence is listed on Airbnb, which is a lot,” said Stefano Picascia, one of the authors behind the report. “Every single flat on a short-term let is one flat less in the regular long-term market.”
Picascia and his colleagues claim locals are increasingly being pushed out by tourism, which is affecting the character of Italy’s cities.
“The centre of Florence is now ‘Disneyfied’,” Picascia told Telegraph Travel. “It’s basically a theme park for tourists.”
The problem is even more acute in the historic city of Matera, the report claims, where more than 25 per cent of the local housing stock is available to rent on Airbnb.
The accommodation site was supposed to be a pioneer of the sharing economy – an opportunity to distribute tourism revenue across cities – but Picascia claims a handful of landlords are now monopolising the Airbnb market.
One so-called “super host” in Milan is reported to have taken around €500,000 (£440,000) in rent last year.
“What we found was great inequality in the distribution of revenue,” said Picascia. “Every city has a few super hosts that sometimes own hundreds of properties.”
The Airbnb boom, warns Picascia, is also having an impact on the price of everyday items such as groceries, as city centre retailers focus on cashing in on tourism rather than catering for locals.
“This has definitely had an impact on the character of Florence,” he said.
Yet surprisingly, Picascia and his colleagues do not hold Airbnb entirely responsible for the ‘Disneyfication’ of Italy’s cities.
“This was happening before Airbnb came along,” he said. “However, Airbnb is definitely accelerating that and we believe it is depriving the market of properties that could be used by permanent residents.”
As Telegraph Travel reported yesterday, Venice’s population was plummeting well before Airbnb entered the fray, due to the number of residential properties being converted into hotels. The local authorities became so worried about the problem that they banned new hotels from opening up in Venice’s historic centre.
Picascia praised Airbnb for working with the authorities in cities like Amsterdam, where there is a limit on the number of days per year that a person can rent their property through the site. However, he claims other destinations could be doing more to not only reduce the impact of Airbnb on city centres, but use the platform to boost local economies in less popular parts of the city.
This, Picascia suggests, could be done by imposing taxes on city centre listings but not on more suburban dwellings.
“If local authorities could somehow encourage people who live outside the historic centre to list their properties on Airbnb,” he said, “this could have a positive effect on local economies.”
Fuente: The Telegraph