Fairbnb.coop, an ethical holiday rental website, has launched its reservations system offering holiday makers the option to book apartments (or rooms) in a number of European cities.
The hugely popular holiday-let website Airbnb, as well as similar sites such as Booking.com, have received a barrage of criticism over recent years over the unintended consequence of businesses and affluent people buying up apartments in order to rent them out on such websites. This has caused the supply of apartments for residents in major cities to drop, resulting in issues of affordability.
Fairbnb.coop aims to be a marketplace for “authentic, fair and conscious tourism,” and promises to donate 50 per cent of its commission to social projects selected by local residents.
Sito Veracruz, Spanish founder of Fairbnb.coop said “In Amsterdam the money will go to a community gardening project in the north and an urban agricultural project for migrant women in the south-east, both poorer parts of the city.”
The website is in its beta phase and currently lists a small number of properties in five pilot cities: Valencia, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Bologna and Venice. Plans are in place to add more European cities to the site over the next few months.
The Guardian reports that Fairbnb.coop’s idea came about three years ago when Mr Veracruz was living in Amsterdam, observed the stark increase in holiday rentals and the negative impact it had on his neighbourhood. Just last June, Amsterdam was one of 10 European cities that wrote to the EU requesting assistance to mitigate soaring housing prices and the barrage of tourists cause by short-term holiday lets.
Mr Veracruz began plans for launching an alternative rental service and, according to The Guardian, was soon contacted by residents in Barcelona, Bologna and Venice who had similar plans in the pipeline.
So how will it be different to Airbnb?
Fairbnb.coop differs from its competitors by allowing each host to list not more than one property per host rule and also bans properties owned by businesses from being listed. In London, a quarter of hosts list more than five properties on Airbnb, according to a special Guardian report.
Fairbnb.coop’s policy will also address a shortcoming of Airbnb where the host apartment is supposed to provide a locals-led philosophy however many are managed by agencies with multiple staff, run as business.
Mr Veracrus said that the ethical rental site will share all data with local authorities in order to help abide by the rules, and in cities with little rules the company will assist local residents in pressing for regulation that makes most sense for that city.
Enforcement of Fairbnb.coop’s one property per host policy will be carried out by the company requiring owners to submit documentation.
Perhaps in an effort to reduce damage caused to Airbnb’s image, it announced last week stricter checks on properties, committing to verify every home on its platform to avoid scams. Among the most common scams are guests being told the property they booked is no longer available after payment has already been made and properties failing to match the description on the listing.
Airbnb said the checks will be made by December 2020, while the company’s chief executive Brian Chesky said the company would no longer permit party houses after a mass shooting at one of its rental homes in California last month.
Airbnb has launched a challenge against Fairbnb.coop over the latter’s name, with Mr Veracruz stating the situation “is being handled by lawyers but we are keen to stress our name is Fairbnb.coop. The name reflects the difference between us and other rental platforms. We are a registered co-operative and are not profit-driven.”