Prague using coronavirus crisis to put short-term rentals under control

The Czech Republic capital is using the coronavirus crisis to get a firmer grip on short-term rentals, which in the last decade have driven out locals out of the Prague centre, news wires reported. Using state of emergency powers in place during the pandemic, the Czech parliament’s lower chamber fast-tracked a plan allowing local authorities to better collect tax and other information on short-term lets, Reuters reported.

According to Prague’s mayor Zdenek Hrib, this is just a tool for the government to regulate Airbnb and other short-term rental services. “We want to get more information from Airbnb owners about the capacity of their apartments, how they are being used and the fees they receive,” he pointed out.

Under new regulation landlords will now have to provide information on the location of a property rented through platforms like Airbnb and Booking, how often a flat was rented, the total payment received and identify the online service used to connect the owner with the client. Airbnb listed nearly 12,000 properties in Prague in 2018, according to Prague’s development institute.

Tourists crowding Prague’s historic city centre to enjoy beer and late-night party scene have put pressure on local services, authorities claim. With over 9 million tourists visited Prague in 2019, the city was one of the most popular destinations in Europe behind only London, Paris and Rome, Euromonitor data shows.

But this influx causes problems for Prague’s residents and one of the most acute among them is a lack of affordable housing as many owners have converted properties into short-term rentals serving tourists. The district encompassing Prague’s city centre has lost many residents as tourism has grown, with registered voters totalling 21,556 in 2017, from 36,862 in 1990.

While short-term rentals now standing vacant after the Czech Republic shut its borders to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Hrib said the city now has time to rethink its approach to tourism. “If we have a chance to regulate Airbnb or similar platforms during the days when there are no tourists it would be beneficial. People would like to live in the city as permanent residents,” Hrib said.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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