Olympic committee’s deal with Airbnb angers Paris authorities

Paris city authorities have reacted angrily to what they call a “risky” deal between the Olympic committee and the short-term tourist rental company Airbnb.

Officials in the French capital, which will host the 2024 summer Games, blame Airbnb for causing a shortage of long-term rental property in the city, pushing up rents and forcing the middle class out.

The mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has expressed her “total determination” to rein in the website and has threatened to ban it in certain areas of central Paris.

The French capital is one of Airbnb’s biggest markets with an estimated 60,000 listings – up from just 4,000 in 2012. The company signed a nine-year sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday.

Hidalgo, a Socialist who is seeking re-election as mayor next year, has already introduced measures forcing Airbnb owners to limit rentals to 120 nights a year and to register their properties with City Hall, which is taking legal action seeking a €12.5m fine against the company for failing to remove those who fail to do so.

In a letter to the IOC’s head, Thomas Bach, before Monday’s deal, Hidalgo had warned that any tie-up would be “risky”.

“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. She also accused Airbnb of “destabilising local businesses and competing harshly with traditional hotels”.

The mayor has threatened to severely curb and even ban short-term tourist rentals in parts of the city if tighter restrictions are not put into place. Last month, the French upper house, the Sénat, approved a measure allowing local authorities across the country to reduce this to between 60 and 120, but the move is unlikely to pass the Assemblée Nationale.

Jean-François Martins, the deputy mayor in charge of sports and tourism, said if Hidalgo was re-elected City Hall would organise a “referendum” immediately after next year’s elections so Parisians could decide “the conditions for Airbnb usage” in the city.

“She believes that Airbnb has a nefarious impact on housing. Parisians will have the choice of several options, including the possibility of banning Airbnb in certain areas,” he said.

Joe Gebbia, Airbnb’s co-founder, said the IOC partnership “will ensure that the Games are the most inclusive, accessible and sustainable yet”.

Ian Brossat, the deputy mayor in charge of housing, said he regretted the IOC’s choice of partner “at a time when many cities in Europe and the world are fighting back against Airbnb”.

He added it was “totally irresponsible given the disastrous consequences Airbnb has had on our towns and cities”.

“We are dealing with a company that doesn’t have the means to pay its taxes in France but can find the means to sign a deal with the IOC,” Brossat added.

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