September 30, 2023

George Moris by no means imagined that his instructing job on the picturesque Greek island of Santorini would pressure him to sleep in his automobile, crash on a colleague’s sofa or spend the evening in empty school rooms.

However with most of Santorini’s property house owners — empowered by dwelling sharing platforms reminiscent of Airbnb — catering to high-paying international vacationers, academics like Moris and different public sector employees battle to seek out inexpensive properties.

When Moris arrived in September 2022, with the vacationer season nonetheless going sturdy, he discovered no long-term leases obtainable. At one level he discovered a lodge room for €20 an evening, “a miracle for Santorini”, he mentioned. However it got here with a caveat: if the proprietor discovered one other visitor, “even in the course of the evening”, Moris agreed to pack up and go so the hotelier might cost the next charge.

Such issues aren’t confined to Santorini, the place vacationer arrivals final 12 months had been virtually 60 per cent larger than their pre-pandemic degree in 2019. In lots of European vacationer hotspots — from sunny Greek islands to Prague, Lisbon and historic Italian cities — Airbnb and different short-term vacation leases are severely disrupting the housing market.

In Santorini, academics arriving every September are sometimes pressured to spend the primary few months of the varsity 12 months in resorts till the vacationer season winds down. Consequently, their housing prices continuously exceed their salaries, as new academics’ month-to-month earnings don’t normally exceed €1,000.

“Most academics don’t wish to be despatched right here,” mentioned Anthi Patramani, president of the secondary schooling officers’ affiliation on the island. “After they come, there’s drama.”

Tourists in the streets of Oia, Santorini
Vacationers in Oia on the island of Santorini, the place customer numbers are up almost 60% since 2019 © Louiza Vradi/Reuters

In Italy, the epitome of the rental housing disaster has lengthy been Venice, the place vacationer beds on the islands within the metropolis’s coronary heart — about 49,000 — exceed the full variety of long-term residents. About 40 per cent of these vacationer beds are let Airbnb-style, for short-term vacationer stays in former residential residences.

Many different Italian cities are experiencing related tendencies. Native officers and social activists say this isn’t solely inflicting an acute scarcity of inexpensive housing but additionally destroying the material of the nation’s conventional city life.

“This has an impact on our cultural heritage,” mentioned Giacomo Menegus, a authorized adviser to the activist group Excessive Strain Housing, a motion born in Venice and now extending to different cities. “You haven’t a residing metropolis however a form of Disneyland, or a plastic attraction with out individuals residing there. Every little thing goes to develop into kind of pretend, or very touristy.”

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The Greek island of Ios — with 2,000 everlasting residents — receives about 150,000 guests each summer season, particularly clubbers from the UK and Eire. Ios mayor Gkikas Gkikas faces the virtually inconceivable process of discovering housing for academics, docs, firefighters and coastguard officers despatched to work on the island.

“It will get more durable and more durable yearly,” mentioned Gkikas. This 12 months, a firefighter stayed within the native museum, whereas a coastguard officer lived in a room adjoining to the island’s helipad.

Antonis Koutsoumpas, 30, a arithmetic instructor assigned mid-year to Ios, spent three months in a room with no kitchen, heating or sizzling water. However he mentioned the island’s everlasting residents — buoyed by their elevated incomes from short-term leasing — are actually detached to public officers.

“The more severe was that there was no assist in anyway from the locals, not even the mother and father of the scholars,” Koutsoumpas mentioned.

Dimitris Alvanos, the resident physician on Ios for the previous 21 years, mentioned the housing crunch throughout Greece’s Cycladic islands is an issue for the well being companies, as medical centres undergo from a scarcity of workers.

The federal government has supplied a €1,800 bonus in July and August as an incentive to docs to maneuver to the islands. However whereas some docs had been , Alvanos mentioned that, “since they had been unable to seek out lodging, nobody ended up coming”.

Student sitting in front of tents and banners
College students in Turin protest in opposition to excessive rents within the metropolis © Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto/Getty Photos

This spring, college college students in a variety of Italian cities — together with Milan, Rome, Florence, Bologna, Padova and Turin — camped out in tents in public locations to protest in regards to the acute lack of inexpensive housing, after residential residences had been transformed to short-term vacation leases en masse whereas universities had been closed through the pandemic interval.

“Many individuals that used to hire to college students determined to hire to vacationers,” mentioned Francesca Benciolini, a Padova metropolis councillor.

Because the crunch worsens, requires intervention are mounting. The Excessive Strain Housing motion has urged the Italian authorities to help laws that might empower cities to control their very own native housing markets, and the way residential models are used.

Excessive renting

That is the second a part of a collection on Europe’s rental disaster:

Metropolis-level regulatory measures might embody quotas on the variety of models dedicated to short-term leases, or a allow system permitting landlords to hire properties to vacationers for mounted interval, earlier than requiring them to revert to the long-term residential market.

Up to now, although, Italy’s tourism minister has instructed a regulation solely requiring the registration of residences rented for brief stays, which Menegus argues could be “utterly unsuitable to revive the housing market in cities the place there are too many Airbnbs”.

Airbnb mentioned its service accounted “for a small fraction of complete guests to Europe”, representing simply 4 per cent of complete travellers to Venice, for instance. It careworn that renting out rooms supplies “an financial lifeline” to the host households.

“We care deeply about housing considerations, implement native guidelines in Greece, and have proposed nationwide guidelines in Italy to assist protect historic cities like Venice,” the corporate added.

Some Italian cities try to behave inside their restricted powers. Florence mayor Dario Nardella mentioned town will supply tax incentives to encourage property house owners to hire properties to long-term residents, quite than short-term guests, thought that initiative might face authorized challenges.

Cities together with Paris, London and Barcelona have put in place restrictions on short-term leases in an try to curb their impression, however enforcement has proved difficult. Some landlords have develop into adept at developing on-line listings to bypass guidelines requiring registrations or governing what number of nights in a 12 months properties could be supplied for short-term lease.

In Greece, discussions are underneath method about extra controls in cities, concentrating on landlords who personal a number of properties rented out on short-term leases.

In the meantime, on the nation’s coveted islands, the federal government is contemplating incentives for development firms to renovate previous municipal buildings, then allocate 40 per cent of these properties to properties for docs, nurses and academics.

“There are properties that could possibly be used,” mentioned Akis Skertsos, a minister accountable for housing. “However the issue won’t be solved tomorrow.”

Extra reporting by Cristina Criddle in London