Another brick in the wall for vacation rental platforms: Amsterdam is booting Airbnb and other such platforms from three districts in the city's old center from July 1, further tightening its rules for such services.
In other districts in the famous city of canals, vacation rentals will only be permitted with a permit from next Wednesday, still for a maximum of 30 nights per year.
The latest tightening of the city's rules on Airbnb and similar platforms comes after a period of consultation with residents and organizations which city authorities say drew 780 responses -- a full 75% of which supported banning the platforms from operating in the three central districts.
The three districts where vacation rentals on platforms such as Airbnb are prohibited from next Wednesday are: Burgwallen-Oude Zijde, Burgwallen-Nieuwe Zijde and the Grachtengordel-Zuid.
"This [consultation] indicates that the subject is very much alive among Amsterdammers. What is striking is that no less than 75% are in favor of a ban on holiday rentals in the three districts, said deputy mayor Laurens Ivens in a press release [translated from Dutch using DeepL].
Furthermore, Ivens said the consultation exercise showed some support for a citywide ban on such platforms. However current pan-EU rules -- notably the European Services Directive -- limit how cities can respond to public sentiment against such services. Hence Amsterdam applying the ban to specific districts where it has been able to confirm tourism leads to major disruption.
The legal cover afforded to vacation platforms operating in the region by the European Services Directive has shown itself to be robust to challenge, after Europe's top court ruled in December that Airbnb is an online intermediation service. A French tourism association had sought to argue the platform should rather be required to comply with real estate regulations.
Ivens said Amsterdam will conduct another tourism review in two years -- and may add more districts to the ban list if it finds similar problems have migrated there.
These are by no means the first restrictions the city has put on vacation rental platforms. Back in 2018 it tightened a cap on the number of nights properties can be rented, squeezing it from 60 nights to 30 per year.
Yet despite such restrictions city authorities note tourist rental of homes has experienced "strong growth" in recent years, with 1 in 15 homes in Amsterdam being offered online. It also said that the supply of homes on the various platforms has increased five-fold -- amounting to around 25,000 advertisements per month.
Due to this increase, tourist rental has an increasingly negative impact on the quality of life in various Amsterdam neighborhoods, the council writes in a press release.
The permit system being brought in is intended to aid enforcement of tighter rules -- with stipulations that a house must be inhabited; and that the maximum of 30 nights per year can only be rented to a maximum of four people. The council has also made it mandatory for those renting homes on vacation rental platforms to report to the municipality every time the house is rented, so will be building up its own data set on how these platforms are being used.
Additional changes to Amsterdam's housing regulations also include higher fines for repeat offender landlords, such as if they rent a property without a permit or violate the maximum number of nights for holiday rentals.
The city has also put limits on conversions, stipulating that only properties larger than 100 m2 may be converted into two or more smaller homes -- a provision that seems aimed at landlords who try to maximize holiday rental income by turning a single larger property into two or more smaller flats, and thereby reducing suitable housing stock for larger families.
After early skirmishes between cities and vacation rental platforms related to the collection of tourist taxes, access to data remains an ongoing bone of contention -- with cities pressing platforms to share data in order that they can enforce tighter regulations. Platforms, meanwhile, have a clear commercial incentive to avoid such transparency.
In 2018, for example, city officials in Amsterdam called for Airbnb to share "specific rental data with authorities -- who is renting out for how long, and to how many people."
We've asked Airbnb to confirm what data it shares with the city now.
The European Commission has sought to play a mediating role here, announcing earlier this year it had secured agreement with P2P rental platforms Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and Tripadvisor to share limited pan-EU data -- and saying it wanted to encourage "balanced" development of the sector while noting concerns that such platforms put unsustainable pressure on local communities.
The initial pan-EU data points the platforms agreed to share are number of nights booked and number of guests, aggregated at the level of “municipalities.” A second phase of the arrangement will see platforms share data on the number of properties rented and the proportion that are full property rentals versus rooms in occupied properties.
However, the Commission is also in the process of updating the rules around digital services, via the forthcoming Digital Services Act. So it's possible it could propose specific data access obligations on vacation rental platforms.
We reached out to the Commission to ask if it's considering updates in this area and will update this report with any response.
Ten EU cities -- including Amsterdam -- penned an open letter last year, calling on the Commission to introduce "strong legal obligations for platforms to cooperate with us in registration-schemes and in supplying rental-data per house that is advertised on their platforms." So the regional pressure for better platform governance is loud and clear.