The city of Paris is home to about 2.2 million people and is the largest in France. However, in the five years to 2014, the city’s residential population dropped by 13,000, a relatively small decline, but one that has led some of the city’s leaders to start blaming an unlikely source, Airbnb.

For those who haven’t used Airbnb before, it is a website that allows private residents to put their property up for short term rental and for travellers to book a private property for their holiday (rather than a hotel). We’ve used the website a bit ourselves and have found it a boon for travelling with children – you can generally get a larger apartment or house than a hotel at a cheaper rate. You also often get to interact with the property owner – we’ve had some very helpful owners who have given us advice about the city that they live in.

Paris, as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, has many, many listings on Airbnb. In fact, with around 65,000 listings on the website, it is currently Airbnb’s biggest market. This has lead the Mayor of Paris’ 1eme arrondissement, Jean-Francois Legaret to call Airbnb “a catastrophe for central Paris”. Why? Because short term rentals are more profitable for landlords than renting out to long-term tenants who pay monthly. Landlords thus reserve their apartments for short-term rentals and prevent their properties from being occupied by longterm tenants.

Of course, there are many other currents swirling around that might also account for some of the blame thrown at Airbnb. Parisian hotels consider Airbnb “an illegitimate competitor” that allows landlords to avoid taxes and set up “illegal hotels”. Last year city authorities reached an agreement with the company whereby it collected a 83 euro cents a night tourist tax on each night’s stay. (Paris has not gone as far as other cities which have banned landlords renting out apartments short term (Berlin) or has fined residents who rent out their apartment short term without living in the apartment themselves (New York)).

In many respects Airbnb is an easy target for blame. It is able to be taxed and the other causes of Paris’ population decline identified by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies of France (lower birthrates, increase in deaths and higher living costs in the city) are much harder to tackle. 

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...