Fairbnb.coop launches, offering help for social projects

Ethical holiday rental website Fairbnb.coop has launched its reservations system offering travellers a chance to book in at city apartments that support community projects. The site aims to be a marketplace for “authentic, fair and conscious tourism” and promises to donate 50% of its commission to social projects selected by local residents.

“In Amsterdam the money will go to a community gardening project in the north and an urban agriculture project for migrant women in the south-east – both poorer parts of the city,” said Fairbnb.coop’s Spanish founder, Sito Veracruz.

The site, which is in its beta phase, currently has a small number of properties (rooms and whole apartments) in five pilot cities: Valencia, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Bologna and Venice, though the plan is to add more properties and cities across Europe over the coming months.

The Fairbnb.coop idea originated three years ago when Veracruz, who is based in Amsterdam, saw how the rapidly increasing number of holiday rentals negatively affected his neighbourhood. In June this year Amsterdam was one of 10 European cities that wrote to the EU asking for help to counter soaring housing prices and the touristification of areas caused by the boom in short-term holiday lets.

Screengrab of Venice properties on Fairbnb.coop website.

Screengrab of Venice properties on Fairbnb.coop website

He started thinking about setting up an alternative rental service and was soon contacted by residents from Barcelona, Bologna and Venice who were developing similar projects. “We were all from cities that struggle with too much tourism and that was no coincidence,” he said. “We all felt an alternative holiday rental platform was needed.”

Unlike Airbnb, where hosts can list multiple properties (in London a quarter of hosts list more than five properties), Fairbnb.coop has a one-home-per-host rule. It also has a ban on properties owned by businesses. Another accusation levelled at Airbnb is that many properties are managed by agencies with multiple staff, contradicting its friendly, locals-led philosophy. In Amsterdam, 40% of Airbnb listings hosted guests for more than the permitted number of nights. Veracruz added: “We share all our data with local authorities and abide by all their rules. In cities that have no – or few – rules, we will, together with residents, press for regulation.”

Owners will also be required to provide documents to show they comply with Fairbnb.coop’s rules, proving, for example, that they have no other rental properties.

Last week Airbnb announced stricter checks on properties, promising to verify every home on its platform to avoid scams whereby guests are told the property they booked is no longer available or the property doesn’t match the description on the listing. The checks will be in place by December 2020. Airbnb’s chief executive Brian Chesky also said the company would ban party houses following a mass shooting at one its rental homes in California last month.

Veracruz refused to comment on the challenge Fairbnb.coop is facing from Airbnb over its name. “It is being handled by lawyers but we are keen to stress our name is Fairbnb.coop. The name reflects the difference between us and other rental platforms. We are a registered co-operative and are not profit-driven”

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