Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has made affordable housing for local Parisians a priority for her six-year term.
“We can’t have entire neighborhoods or buildings turned into tourist homes,” says Hidalgo’s housing adviser Ian Brossat. “That’s why we’re fighting to keep Parisians inside Paris and we won’t let tourist rentals eat up their space.”
So Hidalgo has put together a 20-person team whose sole purpose is to make unannounced visits to apartments where landlords are suspected of renting to visitors unlawfully.
France is the most visited country in the world before the U.S.
Last year 32 million tourists came to Paris, among them, 15.5 million were foreign travelers.
With the growth of short-term room rental services like Airbnb, Hidalgo’s team is the latest attempt to curb a development housing advocates say drives up residential rent prices. They rose 42 percent in the decade to 2013, according to government-funded research.
“It’s simple math: A studio on Airbnb can be 1,000 euros a week. That’s four times the price usually paid by a Parisian,” adds Brossat. “We’re fighting to keep the middle class in town, they are the heartbeat of the city.”
The squad has made 400 inspections in 2013 and is ramped it up in 2014. Five landlords were given a 25,000 euro fine each in 2013. In the first half of 2014, the city tallied fines from 10 landlords with another 13 under investigation.
As of today some 200 rental owners in total have been tracked down.
Legally, landlords who would like to offer short-term Paris rentals must request that the city reclassify their property as a commercial site. This then obliges them to buy a commercial property nearby and devote it to residential housing in return.
Although the law can be interpreted in different ways, being found guilty can get expensive. With a maximum fine of up to 25,000 euros, continued violation can mean further charges of up to 1,000 euros per square meter per day.