AirBNB – A Blessing or a Curse for Berlin?

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Is the online Airbnb flat sharing platform making Berlin’s housing shortage worse? Three students analysed the data to help answer this question. And reached some surprising conclusions.

In Berlin rents have risen faster than in almost any other German city in recent years. The capital was once known for its low rents, but today affordable living space is increasingly hard to find. On the other side of this equation, a place to stay on a visit to Berlin is amazingly easy to find. The Airbnb flat-sharing platform alone offers over 10,000 accommodation units for rent every day, most of them whole flats.

This has kicked off heated debate and even a new law passed in 2014. Airbnb, the argument goes, was originally intended for private people looking to rent out their flat or room for a short time, but now increasingly features purely commercial holiday flats. Many Berlin residents have discovered it is worth holding on to a flat even long after they’ve moved out to sublet it as a pricy holiday getaway. Landlords can also generate more income if they let their apartments to holidaymakers short-term than to regular tenants. The latter is generally assumed to be a major driving factor behind the housing shortage. But is it really?

In the midst of the heated debate on the rights of sharing economy platforms, three design students from the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam decided to use data analysis to take a closer look at Airbnb’s real impact on the rental market. They were particularly interested in identifying how many users offer more than one flat for rent, a likely indication that the flats are not private living spaces. Alsino Skowronnek, one of the three project managers, explained their findings in an interview.

Read the full interview on the Goethe-Institut’s website.