International
Federation for
Housing and
Planning

Outcome Copenhagen Lab

The first Copenhagen Lab: The Airbnb impact on housing and tourism, was the first step, in a series of Labs that aim at explore and analyze the relationship between the Airbnb platform and Copenhagen's housing market and tourism.
Airbnb and similar sharing platforms have a huge impact on the way we live, travel and perceive our homes. As the popularity of home sharing platforms grows, their effects move well beyond the individual household, challenging city authorities, traditional housing policies, tourism boards, rental markets and wider housing perspectives. The first Copenhagen Lab: The Airbnb impact on housing and tourism, promoted in partnership between the IFHP, Copenhagen Municipality, and The Institute for Urban Economic Research, was the first step, in a series of Labs that aim at explore and analyze the relationship between the Airbnb platform and Copenhagen's housing market and tourism.
 

The programme

The Copenhagen Lab: The Airbnb impact on housing and tourism, was a 3h intensive programme that joined a wide range of perspectives (urban planners, housing experts, public authorities, tourism representatives and ‘sharing economy’ researchers) and two international case studies from Berlin and Amsterdam. The afternoon kicked-off with a presentation from Emmy Perez Fjalland, PhD at Danish Architecture Centre and Roskilde University, who exposed her research on the ‘Sharing Cities Project’ and set out the scene for the discussion on what the Sharing Economy is and how it is perceived.
 
She was followed by Ida Bigum, a Senior Advisor form Copenhagen Municipality, who reflected on the meaning of the sharing economy and the main challenges and opportunities it offers from a municipal perspective, touching also on the need to have a holistic understanding of the effects of Airbnb on the city in order to the municipality learn how to navigate and regulate the new reality Airbnb brings.
 
The third speaker, Lars Pico Geerdsen, Director of The Institute for Urban Economic Research, presented the current situation of Airbnb in Copenhagen, according to the available data, and reflected on the need of more specific data on their operations to understand the true impact on housing, tourism and other social patterns.
 
Kirsten Munch Andersen, Director of Politics at HORESTA, the association for hotels, restaurant and tourism industry in Denmark, presented the views of the tourism and hotel sectors regarding Airbnb. To finalize, two presentations from Albert Eefting, Senior Policy Advisor on Housing Affairs (City of Amsterdam), and Alsino Skowronnek, Founder at Karat Studio (Berlin), presented the current situation of Airbnb in the different cities, reflecting on the challenges and general discourse around it. The Lab culminated in a fruitful debate where it was possible to start the discussion and frame questions for further exploration in relation to how Copenhagen's housing and tourism situation can progress in unity with sharing economy platforms.
 

Presentations 

You can download the presentations of the speakers by clicking on their names below:
 

The discussion

For the past year, the City of Copenhagen has been faced with various questions about the negative impacts of AirBnB on housing stock, housing price and business opportunities for hotels in the city. Up until now the municipality has assumed that any potential problems, related to the exponential growth of AirBnB listings in Copenhagen, are relatively small in volume – whereas the potential positive impacts of greater number of tourists experiencing the city in new ways is currently assumed to outweigh the negative effects. However, as the municipality tries to navigate into the sharing economy, the need to understand what is exactly the impact of the new platforms, such as the Airbnb, raises. Not only in terms of the growth and innovation potential but also to guarantee that it develops in a fair way (for businesses and workers), as pointed by Ida Bigum. In order to do so, specific data on Airbnb operations in Copenhagen, have been requested to Airbnb.
As pointed out by Lars Pico Geerdsen, these data will allow to answer several questions, such as: How is Airbnb affecting the supply of beds?; What effect does it have on the number of visitors in the city?; What is the value of a home?; Is it affecting the individuals’ residential location choices on the long run? Therefore, helping the Municipality and the tourism sector to have a real picture of the problematic and regulating accordingly, but also to help the research community to evaluate the numbers and patterns deriving from it.

 

From the cities perspective, the main issues with the sharing economy, specifically when addressing Airbnb, are in taxes, safety, liability, trust, and competitive equity. All the three speakers from Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Berlin, pointed to Airbnb’s failure to collaborate with local governments and research bodies, and the fact that this failure in collaboration may in the end threaten the longevity of the Airbnb business model, since the local governments see themselves obligated to regulate without having a full picture of the numbers behind it, e.g. in Amsterdam the maximum short-term rental period was set in 60 days/year, in Copenhagen between 6 to 8 weeks/year, and in Berlin, renting through Airbnb, has been forbidden. However, without collaboration from Airbnb it is very difficult to assess who is complying with the law and who is not, who is renting and for how-long, who is just renting sporadically subletting and who is transforming it into a business. Another important challenge for the cities, as pointed by Albert Eefting from Amsterdam City, is the onset of a new line of businesses feeding on Airbnb’s operations, that can potentially incur and be complicit in illegal situations.

 

Another topic of discussion during the Lab was that, technology-facilitated sharing between strangers has been leading to an emotional discourse on the media and uncertainty amongst people and administrations on how to deal with it. Further, there is not a fixed understanding and a strict definition of what sharing economy is and what is the best way to navigate in it. Initially greeted with much enthusiasm, the sharing economy has been more recently found to be a ‘disruptive wave’ to the conventional economy. However, as pointed, the sharing economy came to stay and it should be seen as a potential for innovation and growth, that will probably be unfolded into more mainstream and professionalized sharing platforms in the future.

 

Airbnb also presents a challenge to the traditional tourism market, as Airbnb has shaken up this model by providing an online marketplace that permits the large-scale rental of spaces from one ordinary person to another (‘peer-to-peer accommodation’), raising some questions regarding when a private rental becomes a private business, and if so, what the standards and regulations are that should be applied? Should they be the same as for the hotel industry? As pointed out by HORESTA, Airbnb operations have been growing in a very fast pace for the last two years, and Copenhagen is in fact amongst the top cities in the world being impacted by Airbnb with 1 listing per 33,27 inhabitants.

 

However, its impacts still remain to be unfold into true facts, beyond the existing (often emotional) discourse surrounding it, in order to have a holistic understanding of the real effects in the housing and tourism markets in Copenhagen. In order to promote targeted regulation, that can address the ‘real issues’, the data from Airbnb need to be available and analyzed to provide the evidence to understand how and what needs to be regulated.

 

Next steps

A more comprehensive and extensive publication on the topic will be available early November. In the next Copenhagen Lab, scheduled for the first quarter of 2017, we will continue the discussion in more depth, as specific data on the AirBnB operations in Copenhagen will be available.

Are you interested to join the discussion? Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed on all our events on www.ifhp.org.


 

In collaboration with:

For more information, please contact Project Manager Andreia Fidalgo (a.fidalgo@ifhp.org) from the IFHP Team.