It’s getting tight – How housing has become a major problem in Prague and what AirBnB has to do with it

Coming to Prague as a Central-European tourist, you get the impression that life here is really cheap. A beer for less than a Euro is quite normal, a dinner for two costs not even 20 Euros if you go to an ordinary pub. But there is one thing, that is extremely expensive in Prague, and that is housing.
Just looking at the rental prices, Prague does not seem to be extremely expensive on the first impression. A 85 square meter flat in a normal area in Prague costs about 780€ per month.  Not cheap, but quite common for a European city.

To understand why the housing situation in Prague is so difficult for the citizens it is helpful to cross the border of the Czech Republic and have a look at rental prices in Austria’s capital Vienna, only 4 hours from Prague. Here, a flat of the same size would cost approximately 980€ per month, 200€ more. But while the average income in Austria is about 3350€ per month, in the Czech Republic people earn only 1340€ a month in average. So while in Vienna a family with two incomes can easily manage to rent a flat in the city, for people in Prague it becomes more and more impossible. 

But how come housing to be so expensive in Prague? Of course there are many reasons, but one big problem is the online hostility service AirBnB. In 2017 1,79 million people have booked an AirBnB flat in Prague. That is a rise of 60% compared to 2016. In average AirBnB guests pay 80€ for accommodation in Prague, what makes it for many landlords more interesting to rent their flat to tourists than to permanent tenants.

Of course, Prague is not the only city that has a problem with housing effected by AirBnB. More and more communes all over the world come up with stricter policies against AirBnB. In Berlin, for example, a law forbids the so-called misuse of apartments since 2014. That means that it is not allowed at all to rent flats to tourists. In Prague, people hope for a political solution too. In the city centre an action group has started a petition for stricter rules about AirBnB. They want the authorities to focus on this issue and take a look on how other countries handle the problem.

Right now, the housing issue plays a big role in the local elections in Prague in October. A lot of politicians support the idea of stricter rules for AirBnB. However, there are also politicians being skeptical about regulation. The major of Prague 1, Oldřich Lomecký, for example. He does not reject the idea of stricter regulations at all, but sees it as a restriction of private ownership, as he said in a recent radio interview. 

In anyway, the city of Prague and the Czech Republic in general will have to figure out how they want to deal with AirBnB in the future. Some regulations have already been realized, for example tax authorities have started to control people renting out property on AirBnB more strictly. If the protest in the population remains, there are more restrictions likely to come.

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