Airbnb-hosts create a stumbling block for Lisbon’s City Council


Lisbon City Council is taking steps to turn Airbnb-style homes into affordable housing. But with many short-term rental owners holding out for tourism to return, the city’s new program has yet to attract many owners, Bloomberg reports.

Under the so-called “Safe Rent” program, Lisbon is offering to pay as much as three years of rent up front to lure property owners—many of whom have seen their rental income evaporate due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions—to switch their short-term rental units into long-term lets for locals.

Property owners may earn a maximum of 1,000 euros a month ($1,170) for a four-bedroom apartment in the city centre, plus a little extra if they leave their furniture behind, and their rental income will be exempt from taxes, according to the rules of the program.

“Many short-term property owners have delayed a decision to switch to long-term renting because they were waiting for reservations to pick up in the summer,” said Eduardo Miranda, head of the Association of Local Accommodation in Portugal, or ALEP.

“This hasn’t happened yet and many of these owners may be considering other alternatives at the moment, including the safe rent program in Lisbon,” he said.

“The short-term rental market had a very important role in enabling the city of Lisbon to respond to the rising tourist demand,” said Fernando Medina, the mayor of Lisbon, in a televised interview on July 7. “It also had a big role in rehabilitating the city,” he said.

Bloomberg reports that reforms in recent years have brought investment and a boost to the property market, giving incentive for landlords to convert run-down buildings into short term holiday listings hosted by companies such as Airbnb.

According to the Lisbon City Council, there are about 25,000 apartments registered as short-term rentals, accounting for about 8% of the total, says the Bloomberg report. However, in some historic neighbourhoods, short term rentals account for more than 20% of housing units, prompting the Lisbon City Council in 2019 to suspend new short term rental licenses in certain areas.