November 19, 2019 / 10:18 AM / 20 days ago

Paris mayor sounds alarm over Airbnb Olympics tie-up

PARIS (Reuters) - The mayor of Paris, due to host the Olympics in 2024, has taken issue with a sponsorship deal between the Games and Airbnb Inc., saying the short-term rental firm pushes working people out of the housing market, French media reported on Tuesday.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo has written a letter to International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach in response to a nine-year deal under which Airbnb will help provide accommodation for five Olympics and Paralympics events.

Hidalgo told Bach she was writing to alert the IOC about the “risks and consequences” of the deal with Airbnb, according to France’s Le Monde newspaper, which cited the contents of the letter.

“By taking out a significant number of properties in Paris, Airbnb is contributing to price rises for housing, and worsening the shortage of housing in the rental market, penalising all Parisians and, in particular, the middle class,” Le Monde quoted Hidalgo as saying in her letter.

Short-term rentals via Airbnb can “cause a nuisance for residents, destabilise local trade and present tough competition for the traditional hotel trade,” Hidalgo was quoted as saying in the letter.

Responding to a Reuters request for comment on Hidalgo’s letter, Airbnb said on Tuesday the tie-up for the Olympics will bring real economic benefits to French communities and athletes and will leave a positive legacy.

The Paris mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the authenticity of the letter.

San Francisco-headquartered Airbnb has grown rapidly to become one of the major players in room rental.

But it has faced a backlash in some cities, where local politicians say it can push up prices and turn once-vibrant city neighbourhoods into dormitories where many properties are turned over to short-term rentals.

FILE PHOTO: Paris' mayor Anne Hidalgo attends a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe as part of commemorations marking the 101st anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I, in Paris, France November 11, 2019. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

The firm is currently revamping policies to improve trust after a mass shooting in California last month at a property that was advertised on the Airbnb online listing service.

Announcing the tie-up with Airbnb, the IOC president said it would help host cities save and make the games more feasible and sustainable.

Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia said he hoped the partnership would help leave a “positive legacy for athletes and host communities”, as well as give benefits for the company, such as integrated booking of accommodation with online ticket purchases.

Reporting by Christian Lowe, editing by James Drummond

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