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Lisbon Has a Plan to Reclaim Housing From Airbnb

The program aims to increase affordable housing by incentivizing long-term leases.

A tram passes by closed hotels in Lisbon on May 14, 2020. With tourism down, the city has instituted a plan to turn some vacation housing into long-term rentals. 

A tram passes by closed hotels in Lisbon on May 14, 2020. With tourism down, the city has instituted a plan to turn some vacation housing into long-term rentals. 

Photographer: Jose Sarmento Matos/Bloomberg

Across the world’s cities, vacation apartments that were fully booked this time last year lie empty. Affected by lockdowns, quarantine measures and social distancing, it seems likely that the Airbnb-dominated short-stay market will not fully return to pre-pandemic levels for some time—if ever. For cities that draw many visitors, that leaves a question mark over the fate of apartments that previously catered to tourists.

A new plan in Lisbon aims to fill some of these vacancies—while tackling an affordable housing problem that has only been exacerbated by coronavirus. This spring, the Portuguese capital launched a program to encourage short-stay landlords to get their apartments back onto the long-term rental market. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is already happening organically to some extent in many cities. Lisbon is encouraging this process by taking the risk away. Participating landlords will no longer rent their properties to individual tenants, but to the city itself.