The Government of Mexico City has begun conversations with authorities of cities that have been strongly affected by the unbridled business of platforms such as Airbnb and the massive arrival of the so-called digital nomads. The head of the capital’s government, Claudia Sheinbaum, entrusted the General Coordination of Advisors and International Affairs to document what measures various cities in the United States and Europe implemented to contain the negative impacts of tourism on local communities. The head of the coordination, Diana Alarcón González, has specified in an interview with EL PAÍS that the cities whose experience they have reviewed are Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, New York, Paris, Prague and Rome.
“In some cases we speak directly and in great detail with the cities. In other cases, it is a review based on the regulations of these cities and the studies that they already have and that are public”, explains the coordinator. “The instruction that the head of government gave us is: ‘let’s talk directly with the cities that have already registered problems —and in some cases serious problems— with this type of visitor; So let’s have a conversation with them to see what the problems were and how they solved them’. And that’s part of the research we’re doing.”
The instruction of the capital’s president has come a few months after her Administration signed an agreement with Airbnb whose scope was unclear. Although the capital’s government said at the time that it was an understanding to trigger tourism in the most marginalized areas of the city, specialists and neighborhood organizations denounced that, in fact, Sheinbaum had handed over the city to the tray platform of silver. The president said for the first time on December 29, in an interview with Bloomberg, that his Administration would take measures to regulate the Airbnb business, without giving further details. “If it is not regulated, there are going to be areas that will be exclusively Airbnb,” Sheinbaum told the US media. “It can’t be either. That is going to generate a lot of problems in the city.”
The capital coordinator points out that, for the moment, the authorities cannot disclose what regulations they are taking into consideration, until they conclude their explorations in the cities and their studies in the Mexican capital itself. “The city with which we have spoken the most is Barcelona. The head of government communicated with (the mayoress) Ada Colau, she asked us to make contact with the technical team of the mayor’s office in Barcelona, which has done all the studies and regulation proposals, ”she explains. Among other measures, a tourist registration or permit has been implemented in the Spanish city that “hosts” must obtain in order to rent their apartments through Airbnb. If they do not have it, they may be subject to fines.
Alarcón says that there are measures that some cities promoted and that, in the end, turned out to be excessive or inapplicable. He affirms that, in this sense, the challenge for Mexico City is to devise appropriate regulations for the problem in the magnitude as it manifests itself locally. “New York we reviewed it and we have an active conversation with them. It is important to take into account, in order to learn from the experiences of other cities and not repeat the same mistakes, there are cities that have adopted regulations that are not ‘enforceable’, which are not implementable, and have had to back down. That is the case of New York, not only did they lose a regulation proposal they had in court, but it has been very difficult —and this was also confirmed by Barcelona— to make some of the regulations effective when you do not have the instruments to do so ”, indicates.
The official refers that, according to her research, the arrival of digital nomads in Mexico City has not had the same negative impact as in other cities reviewed. “It is a phenomenon on a much smaller scale than what is perceived in the media. We did a very detailed study on what the presence of these new visitors is in relation to the availability of housing in Mexico City and it is very, very small. It has nothing to do with cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Amsterdam, Lisbon, which are cities that are receiving a large number of this type of visitors, with a much higher penetration in relation to homes or the number of inhabitants. So, Mexico City being such a large city, it is not receiving these massive waves of visitors that are displacing the population or making housing more expensive in specific areas of the city, ”she maintains.
The coordinator affirms that, according to her studies, rents in areas favored by digital nomads, contrary to going up, are going down, and she ruled out that this tourism is the cause of gentrification. “Even in an area like Roma-Condesa, which is where the arrival of this type of visitor is said to be more concentrated, reviewing the statistics, what we even have is a reduction in the average cost of rentals in the years 2021 and 2022, which are the years in which these visitors with higher volumes have arrived. Why are rents reduced on average? Well, because we had a pandemic. So the phenomenon, seen from the numbers —and we are reviewing all the statistics possible to understand the size of this phenomenon—, we do not have concrete, specific evidence that the arrival of these new visitors is generating gentrification or an increase in rents ” she refers.
When it is pointed out that there have been more and more frequent complaints from families displaced by the increase in rents, the official says that they are rather “anecdotal” cases, one would say isolated, than a general problem. “I don’t want to say that it doesn’t exist. Of course there is evidence, let’s say, more anecdotal, more case by case, as you say, of people who have had to leave their apartments because the owner wants to turn it into an Airbnb, etc. That is true, but it is more anecdotal than a statistical trend or a trend that is taking hold in the city and that is effectively generating this process of gentrification and income growth”, she assures.
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