London's steep rents not Airbnb's fault, company boss says


The European head of Airbnb has hit back at claims that the home rental service is driving up property prices and helping exacerbate London's housing crisis.

Olivier Gremillon, the managing director (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at Airbnb, told the Press Association that short-term home rental sites like Airbnb are not to blame for the capital's housing crunch.

"There have been a few studies done by academics which said, no it doesn't really increase the price of housing. There is a housing shortage in London (but) is it because of Airbnb? No. There are a lot of other reasons why prices are high."

Mr Gremillon explained that the company regularly looks at regional data to determine whether their business is impacting local economies.

"We look into the data, we see if there something there and if there is, we try to address whether it's on the tax side, whether its on the regulation, (or) the communication of the regulation," he said.

Earlier this month, chair of Parliament's Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Iain Wright wrote a letter to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, highlighting the negative consequences of temporary lettings operations run by the likes of Airbnb, including its potential to drive up prices.

Mr Wright also said that "many landlords appear to be operating illegally" by letting properties for more than 90 days per year - after which they would require a special permit.

Meanwhile, the British Hospitality Association is concerned that landlords were gaining an uncompetitive advantage thanks to Airbnb, which helped them circumvent tax, food and health and safety regulations.

Mr Gremillon was not surprised that competitors were raising concerns in light of the company's fast expansion across the UK - but stressed regulation is unlikely to be tightened as a result.

"I don't think the regulation will be tightened or should be tightened," he said.

Airbnb reported an 85% jump in guest arrivals to 1.6 million across the UK between June to August, compared to 860,000 over the same period last year

"The fact that it creates a reaction is normal," Mr Gremillon said.

"We all need to do a better job of communicating the regulation so people know what the regulation is," he conceded, but said that Airbnb was holding talks with London boroughs to address concerns.

However, he characterised existing London regulations as "pretty fair and clear," noting that the 90-day rule was easy to understand.

"Is it the best regulation, business wise, that we have globally? No, not necessarily. But there's been some thinking behind it."