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  • Writer's pictureChuka Nwanazia

Amsterdam's Airbnb Problem

Other than making a few bucks, what other way do Amsterdam and her residents benefit from Airbnb and all those other holiday accommodation sites? The last couple of years revealed how Airbnb went from hero to zero in Amsterdam. The questions remain: Does the insane amount of money earned by a few on a website outweigh the problems it causes? And what should be the role of the government in this?

Houses in Amsterdam

For many Amsterdammers, vacation accommodation sites like Airbnb can quickly go from offering locals a chance to make some extra cash to being a thorn in the eye. It is no secret that Airbnb first started out as a place for tourists to find cheap accommodation while offering locals a chance to mingle with people from other cultures as well as make some money. While this has had some degree of success, it has caused major inconveniences in a lot of neighbourhoods. Residents have seen their neighbourhoods change for the worse due to what they now call "the arrival of illegal hotels."

There have been protests in the Dutch capital against Airbnb for some time now. With the increasing success of Airbnb, there has been a decrease in the amount of apartments for rent in Amsterdam. While the number of tourists flocking into the city doesn't seem to decrease anytime soon, residents are worried that there will soon be a shortage of apartments to rent for the average Amsterdammer. This is partly as a result of landlords preferring to rent out their rooms on Airbnb because it is more profitable. And even when said landlords decide to rent their apartments to Amsterdam residents, it's usually at exorbitant rates. Either way, it doesn't look too good for Amsterdam residents.

Recently, a few protests against Airbnb were seen in New York and New Orleans. There are also other examples showing that Airbnb is developing into a universal problem, as municipal governments are stepping in to handle the situation. Just this year in the municipal elections in the Netherlands, high on the agenda was what MPs were going to do about Airbnb. Imagine how much of a problem it has become that the government has to step in to find solutions!

But is Airbnb only just a villain?

Residential building in Amsterdam

Of course not! Airbnb has always been a great way for tourists to enjoy staying in residential buildings (that obviously offer more than most hotels) while on vacation. It has also provided locals with an opportunity to make a lot of money. In short, Airbnb has been a major "money maker" for both the owners of the site and locals in the different cities where they operate.

The problem though, is that everyone is right! The enthusiastic vacationer who has just had a great time in an apartment belonging to an elderly couple in the centre of Amsterdam is right! The Amsterdam resident who can pay for his family's vacation to Japan from the renting out of his apartment is right! The worried neighbour who can't sleep because of the constant noise from the neighbour's apartment currently occupied by a group of drunk tourists is right! They're all within their rights to want whatever they want, but there has to be clear guidelines and rules governing something like this or the residents will always be the ones who suffer.

The point is: while it's perfectly okay for Amsterdam residents to make money by renting their apartments on Airbnb, one must also understand that not all tourists are responsible. Some will always cause trouble one way or the other and this isn't good for the city and the residents in the long run.

The Municipal Government's Solution

Directions to a voting booth during the municipal elections in Amsterdam

Almost 4 years ago, in the debates surrounding the municipal elections, there was not even a single talk about Airbnb, but this year has seen a change. Hopeful MPs all talked about their ideas on how to tackle Amsterdam's Airbnb problem. A problem that has put even more pressure on Amsterdam's housing market. Investors have massively bought properties all around the city as they hope to make money by renting these properties on the Airbnb site. This has resulted in the price of rent skyrocketing, less living space and quiet neighbourhoods becoming party havens for fun-seeking tourists. Imagine living on a street that once had a reputation for being "quiet", only to have some investors buy a lot of houses on the street and rent them out to tourists. Everyday, you watch tourists come and go as they show no regard for the rules that govern the street.

In the meantime, Amsterdam is becoming busier by the day and streets like Damrak and Kalverstraat are becoming quite difficult to walk in during the summer months. Local shops are disappearing, entrepreneurs can no longer pay the rent in the big city and are replaced by shops that are only aimed at tourists. More and more residents feel displaced and distraught and had to turn to the municipal government to find a solution.

IAMSTERDAM sign in Amsterdam

The government has ruled that Amsterdam residents renting their homes through platforms such as Airbnb will only be allowed to do so for no more than 30 days per year from 2019 onwards. Furthermore, Amsterdammers who want to rent their homes out have to register with the city council and must make sure that no more than four people are staying in their property.

This is good news as more Amsterdammers feel that it's time to start catering to the needs of the residents while also making the city as welcoming as possible for tourists. Housing alderman Laurens Ivens said, "I recognise that reducing the length of time is not the solution to city congestion but it will reduce the problems caused by tourists in some areas and will make it less inviting to use your home as a way to earn money."

There are some Amsterdam residents who feel that the city council is only favouring big hotels over local families by making such a rule, but it is a democracy after all, and the votes of those who wanted Airbnb to be curbed trumped those who didn't. I hope they come to see the gains in the long run.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city that has long been considered tolerant by all. It is a city that is both multicultural and welcoming. If we must preserve this wonderful city's beauty for the locals, while also making it comfortable for tourists, websites like Airbnb have to be curbed. The 30-day rule seems like a good start and we hope the municipality can build from there.

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