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#OccupyAirbnb: Fighting back against short-term rentals in Prague

Prague, Czech Republic – As the city is experiencing a dire housing shortage and prices are going through the roof, a small collective decided to strike back against Airbnb. By renting a big flat in Prague Old Town and turning it into a meeting and discussion platform, the group spent the weekend attracting attention to the housing crisis and raising awareness about one of its causes, short-term rentals.

“Not the shared economy, but an industry”

‘Alex and Tanya’ are not a young couple hosting visitors in their home and helping them discover the city while earning some money to make ends meet, as the usual Airbnb advertisement would like us to believe. They’re just two youngsters administrating 71 Prague apartments on Airbnb for the firm ‘Placid House s.r.o.’, which is owned by four Russian investors. As I went into their office on the prestigious Wenceslas Square in downtown Prague, they barely talked to me, just handing me a form to fill in and the keys. In only five minutes, I was out with the keys and would not see them again.

While the owners probably never saw the building their flat is located in on St. Henry Street, the first glimpse inside showed one of the impacts of short-term rentals: there was absolutely no soul, it was dirty and in a terrible shape, with almost no lights in the corridors. How could it be otherwise? Only three of the sixteen apartments are still inhabited by locals, the rest just sees an incessant flow of visitors coming in and out every few days. Inside the flat, the same kind of gloomy atmosphere reigned: minimal decoration, minimal furniture, minimal lighting.

It was Friday afternoon and our collective, ‘Stop Airbnb’, gets in the flat to start turning it into a protest platform against the Airbnb industry and its impact on the housing crisis in Prague. In the entrance hall, we set up a ten-panel strong exhibition about Airbnb & co. in Prague with all the facts about the situation: a 50% increase in rent prices in the last five years, about 15,000 flats on the short-term rental market, most of the Airbnb offers being whole flats offered all year-round (78%), most Airbnb owners having more than one offer (65%). This is not the shared economy, but an industry which is eating up Prague from the inside, with every fourth flat in the Old Town catering exclusively to tourists.

Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib (pictured above) attended Stop Airbnb’s action in central Prague. Credit: ‘Stop Airbnb’
Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib (pictured above) attended Stop Airbnb’s action in central Prague. Credit: ‘Stop Airbnb’

 

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