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The City With the World's Toughest Anti-Airbnb Laws

Months after passing tight restrictions, Berlin still has plenty of vacation apartments available. But the tide could be turning.
Tenements near the subway station at Mehringdamm, Berlin.
Tenements near the subway station at Mehringdamm, Berlin.michael.berlin/Flickr

On May 1, Berlin effectively banned short-stay vacation apartments. In a city where affordable housing is hard to come by, the feeling was that Airbnb and similar platforms were hogging too much space, taking what could be well over 10,000 homes off the regular rental market.

The new law allowed some loopholes. Landlords can still legally rent out up to 50 percent of a home they actually live in, and entire homes can also be rented out under special circumstances. But while Berlin-wide figures are unavailable, the number of such permits granted remains tiny. Meanwhile, fines of up to €100,000 ($106,000) for any landlords or tenants (but not guests) breaking the law make this the toughest crackdown on vacation apartments anywhere in the world. The question is, has it worked?