Online accommodation platforms such as Airbnb have negative effects on the Swiss housing market and lead to fewer homes available for tenants and higher rental prices, a study has revealed.
According to a survey by the Inura Zurich Institute, commissioned by the Zurich Tenants’ Associationexternal link and published on Tuesday, Airbnb and similar online holiday rental platforms have particularly negative effects on cities popular with tourists which suffer from a shortage of long-term rentals.
The study showed the growth of Airbnb in three Swiss cities. In Basel, the number of apartments on the platform rose from 293 in 2013 to 1,092 in 2016. This corresponds to 42% of the number of beds available in Basel hotels last year.
In Geneva, one-third of owners renting property offer accommodation on Airbnb, some renting three or four apartments. The study found 70% of the apartments on Airbnb could be rented all year round. Two people in Geneva offer 33 and 34 apartments for rent on Airbnb. The record in Switzerland in 2016 is 105 apartments offered on Airbnb by a single supplier.
In Zurich, 2,000 properties were offered on Airbnb in August 2016, representing 0.4% of the total offer of apartments for rent in the city. These are concentrated in certain neighbourhoods, like the old town.
A spokesperson for Airbnb says the study is based on false data.
“Home Sharing reflects how the Swiss want to live, work and travel nowadays. It does not have an impact on the housing market but contributes to a more efficient use of the homes that are occasionally shared by the hosts,” Airbnb told swissinfo.ch, adding that it shares its data and works with politicians and tourist boards to develop tourism “in a responsible and sustainable manner” .
There are fears that the existing situation could lead to higher rental prices in cities and force tenants to move out of the centres due to fewer available rentals.
In 2015, the vacancy rate for rentals in Zurich stood at 0.22%, 0.42% in Basel and 0.45% in Geneva. In the United States and Canada, a healthy housing market is defined as when the vacancy rate for rental accommodation is around 3%.
The study’s authors recommend regulating the supply of accommodation on rental platforms, for example by setting a maximum number of apartments that a supplier can offer. Tax issues also need to be addressed, they said.
The Zurich Tenants’ Association used the opportunity to call for stricter regulation of Airbnb offers. It stressed that it did not have a problem with the service as such, so long as tenants sublet their own living spaces. The problems arose when it became commercialised; people renting extra flats in order to sublet them on Airbnb. It wants regulate commercial use in city areas that are already facing a housing shortage.
Airbnb continues to grow overall in Switzerland. In January 2017, it listed 24,460 apartments, homes or rooms, and 63,839 beds, compared to 6,033 apartments and 20,841 beds in October 2014. These are rented over the internet or using a mobile app.
Overall, Airbnb beds account for 25% of the total tourism accommodation on offer (compared to 13% in 2015 and 8% in 2014).
The average price for a Swiss bed is CHF73. Basel City has the most expensive overnight stays (CHF121 francs), followed by Basel Country (CHF86), Geneva (CHF86) and Graubünden (CHF82).
The average age of people offering their apartment for rental is 40, and that of clients is 35, according to Airbnb. Two-thirds of customers are from Europe and stay on average 4.5 nights. This compares with an average of two nights for Swiss hotels, according to the Federal Statistical Office.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/sb,ilj