Brussels’ war against illegal Airbnbs

Brussels mayor Philippe Close and Town Planning councilor Ans Persoonshave approved an action plan to stop the development of illegal Airbnb in the city center.

Airbnb has become a business. In some cases, it is no longer an individual who rents his room – which was the basis of Airbnb spirit – but professionals who buy whole houses or several apartments and then rent them on tourist rental platforms. “Airbnbs […] are often run by professionals who buy a large number of properties and rent them through the site. Some neighborhoods are left with fewer and fewer apartments available to rent and the balance between residents and tourists is threatened”, Persoons continues.

The Brussels Region has around 7400 properties advertised on the Airbnb website. The City of Brussels is the most concerned commune with 2,200 properties. Moreover, the authorities say 1,600 of these properties are available exclusively through the site. In certain downtown neighborhoods, particularly those in the Grand Place, Bourse, Saint-Jacques, Saint-Géry and Dansaert, this proportion is creating competition for residential housing.

“We want to avoid becoming like Paris or Amsterdam, where the website is even more popular. We don’t want just tourists living in the city center. Brussels residents should still be able to find housing in any neighborhood at an affordable price”, says Ans Persoonss, adding that most Airbnb rentals are illegal and not in line with the Brussels ordinance on tourist accommodation.

Another problem is that Airbnb harms the urban network. Tourists are rarely aware of the days of trash pickup and leave their garbage in the streets anytime. In addition, Airbnb leads to a degradation of the social bond between neighbors but also between inhabitants and traders, as the College of the City of Brussels considers.

The City of Brussels has therefore approved an action plan to stem the uncontrolled development of tourist rentals. This plan aims to punish illegal tourist accommodation via a Control Cell and to tax accommodation as unoccupied property.

“We want to put pressure on homeowners to put their property on the conventional rental market. By increasing the controls, we want to put back 1,000 dwellings on the rental market by the end of the legislature”, concludes the Town Planning councilor.

“We had a great victory a few weeks ago. The owner of a large building in the UNESCO area decided, because the pressure of the new tax for well vacant, to hand over 15 apartments that were rented on the Airbnb platform on the traditional rental market”, announced Philippe Close.