Lisbon mayor promises to ‘get rid of Airbnb’ once pandemic is over

Lisbon mayor Fernando Medina has pledged to ‘get rid of Airbnb’ (the online platform for short-term holiday rentals) once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

In a text written in English for the UK’s Independent, Mr Medina admits that a third of the city centre has been lost to holiday rentals, incurring incalculable social consequences.

“Essential workers and their families have increasingly been forced out” as Airbnb and other platforms like it have seen rental costs spiral, communities hollowed out and the city’s “unique character” threatened.

Yes Lisbon has “benefitted enormously from the millions of tourists” who thronged its cobbled streets and enjoyed its world-famous restaurants and bars but it has “paid a social price”, he stresses, that no longer makes sense.

Thus, the “bold plan” to prioritise affordable housing” for the hospital staff, transport workers, teachers and thousands of others who provide essential services.

Says Medina: “We’re offering to pay landlords to turn thousands of short-term lets into ‘safe rent’ homes for key workers” once the pandemic recedes sufficiently.

“As mayor of Lisbon, I want to bring those who are our lifeblood back to the city centre as we make it greener”, says Medina.

This will also involve “adding cycle lanes” to streets, “creating green areas and public spaces to give people more places to socialise and exercise”.

Commentators over social media have already started pouring scorn on the concept, suggesting this is another situation where ‘the government’ is trying to meddle in the free market. But as the city has filled up with Airbnb-style choice, and the pandemic has seen to it that there are fewer and fewer punters, an alternative that ensures regular income may not be such a bad idea.

Medina’s plan does not mean “we don’t want tourism or need visitors to return to Lisbon as quickly as possible”, he adds.“It’s simply time we do things differently and visitors will ultimately benefit”.

Returning to ‘business as usual’ in a world – even after the pandemic – “destined for catastrophic climate change and gross inequality” – is just not an option.

Thus the mayor is in touch with counterparts throughout the world to come up with “a new path” – one that offers a “better future from the tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic”.

For the full text of Medina’s article (click here).

Controversy over the sheer volume of Airbnb-style business in Lisbon has been rife for sometime. Indeed, last year, websites were already crediting the capital with having “the highest ratio of Airbnb locations in Europe”, with “more than 30 rooms per 1000 inhabitants”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com