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EU court: Solving housing shortage has priority over allowing Airbnb-type rentals

Brussels

EUROPEAN cities cracking down on short-term rentals of private homes like those on Airbnb got a boost on Thursday, after an adviser to Europe's top court said they have the right to vet such rentals to tackle the shortage of long-term housing.

The home-sharing site's rapid growth over the last decade has posed a challenge for the authorities in cities from Amsterdam to New York and Paris, which have accused Airbnb of worsening housing shortages and pushing out lower-income residents.

The case before the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) concerned two Parisian apartment owners who were fined by the city's authorities for letting out their homes on Airbnb without permission. The owners took their case to a French court, which asked the CJEU for guidance.

The court's advocate-general Michal Bobek said the public interest trumps EU rules, known as the services directive on the freedom to provide services in the bloc.

"A shortage of long-term housing constitutes an overriding reason of public interest capable of justifying a national measure, which requires authorisation to be obtained for the repeated letting of residential accommodation for short periods to a transit clientele," he said.

Airbnb said it took note of the non-binding opinion.

"Airbnb is not party to this case, which only applies to the renting of second homes in Paris. The vast majority of hosts in Paris share their primary homes and the CJEU has already set out how Airbnb should be regulated in Europe," the US company said in a statement.

The court will rule in the coming months. Judges usually follow four out of five such recommendations.

At close to 60,000 listings, Paris has more Airbnb listings than any other city in the world.

The city allows its homeowners to rent out their apartments on short-term rental websites for up to 120 days a year. REUTERS

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