Berlin city apartments have introduced a ban against online holiday rentals of privately owned apartments to counter a housing shortage. As Hayley Platt reports, owners say the move could cut visitor numbers to Berlin.
Stephan La Barre has been making money from tourism for 10 years. He rents apartments in Berlin to those seeking a cheaper alternative to hotels. But a new ruling prevents his firm - and online sites like AIRBNB and WIMDU - renting property to tourists. It's designed to tackle a housing shortage and increasingly high rents. (SOUNDBITE) (German) OWNER OF HOLIDAY RENTAL APARTMENTS, STEPHAN LA BARRE, AND HEAD OF "APARTMENT ALLIANZ" WHICH REPRESENTS OWNERS OF HOLIDAY PROPERTY, SAYING: "The damage to the tourist 'holiday apartments' has been completely ignored, for some families it's the only way they can afford a holiday. We're being persecuted like robbers or sex offenders." Anyone advertising a Berlin apartment for short periods of time now faces a hefty fine - possibly up to 50,000 euros. (SOUNDBITE) (English) (UNNAMED) DUTCH TOURIST WHO BOOKED THIS APARTMENT FOR SEVEN PEOPLE, SAYING: "I think it's a very bad idea because for large groups of persons, something like a hotel it would become very expensive and a home like this is very large space and it's a great solution." The minister behind the ban wants the 12,000 plus apartments currently in commercial use to become homes once again. (SOUNDBITE) (German) BERLIN'S STATE MINISTER FOR CITY DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENT, ANDREAS GEISEL, SAYING: "Berlin is growing and its residents are being pushed to the edge of the city because there are too few apartments and it takes too long to build new ones." But Stephan won't be giving in easily. He's planning to sue the city - and ignore the ban in the meantime.