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19.11.2019 Europe

Paris mayor riled by Airbnb sponsorship of Olympics

By Zeenat Hansrod - RFI
(REUTERS/Charles Platiau)
NOV 19, 2019 EUROPE

Airbnb has become a leading partner of the Olympics in a nine-year deal that has drawn sharp criticism from Paris, host of the 2024 Summer Games.

In the deal unveiled in London on Monday, the home rental platform became a "top" International Olympic Committee (IOC) partner, joining titans including Coca Cola and Visa on the highest sponsorship level.

But the decision sparked strong reaction from Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, who has been at odds with Airbnb in recent years.

Pricing Parisians out
Hidalgo is battling hard to reduce the amount of Parisian flats on the Airbnb platform as she claims it is driving people out of the city.

Paris has 65,000 Airbnb listings alone, which city officials say is pushing up rents and encouraging property owners to favour the tourist market over residents.

In a letter sent last week, Hidalgo warned IOC head Thomas Bach about the risks of the deal.

"By removing a significant number of lodgings from Paris, Airbnb contributes to rising rents and worsens the shortage of apartments on the rental market at a cost for all Parisians, in particular the middle class," Hidalgo wrote.

The French capital has been locked in several legal battles with Airbnb, and in February demanded it pay €12.5 million in fines for allowing owners to rent properties without registering with the city.

Airbnb invoked European law that would exempt the platform from monitoring user activity. The Court of Justice of the European Union should decide on the case in 2020.

Today, the Luxemburg-based court examined France's case against Airbnb.

Referendum to oust Airbnb
Hidalgo, who is up for re-election in 2020, vowed her "total determination" to tighten rules on tourist rentals in Paris.

On Monday, Jean-François Martins, deputy mayor for tourism, said Hidalgo – if re-elected – had promised to organise a referendum immediately after so that Parisians can decide the conditions for usage by Airbnb in the French capital.

Hidalgo is also calling for a considerable reduction in the number of nights people are allowed to rent out their property. She asked the government to pass a law limiting rentals on Airbnb to 30 or 120 days a year.

Ian Brossat, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of housing, said that in the city's 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th arrondissements (all in the heart of Paris), 26 percent of properties are not lived in by Parisians.

"If we do not regulate Airbnb, we won't have anyone living in our city centres," he said.

Win-win partnership
The Airbnb-IOC partnership starts with the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo, runs through the Beijing winter Games two years later, the 2024 summer Olympics in Paris, the 2026 winter Games in Milan-Cortina and ends with the Los Angeles summer events in 2028.

The IOC is pledging to make at least $28 million worth of Airbnb accommodation available to athletes at the Olympics and Paralympics.

“This partnership will greatly help us because it will provide accommodation that will reduce the cost for the Olympic Games organisers and all the stakeholders,” Bach said, without providing finances.

“It will minimise the need for construction of new accommodation infrastructure for the Olympic Games period and it will generate direct revenue opportunities for the host communities.”

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