Minister of Tourism, Charles Fernandez has stated that the government’s efforts to construct new houses throughout Antigua have helped to mitigate the impact of the rising rental fees that have stemmed from the increase in Airbnb listings.
The surge in the number of individuals renting out their properties as short-term lets had resulted in fewer properties being available for long-term rental homes, consequently driving up prices.
Concerns have also been expressed in Antigua and Barbuda regarding the compliance of property owners, as it was discovered that fewer than 300 out of the country’s 500 Airbnb-listed properties were officially registered with the government as required by law.
This issue was raised by Colin James, the CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, during a recent state of the industry report launch.
Jamaican and New York officials have similarly expressed concerns about the Airbnb market, with the Jamaican Tourism Minister and New York City legislators reportedly seeking to crack down on illegal short-term rentals to ease their respective housing markets.
Minister Fernandez explained that the local short-term stay industry, including Airbnbs, is rigorously regulated through a legal amendment that ensures rental properties pay their share of tax.
“We passed the Act in 2019 to allow us to inspect and license them. However, Jamaica and New York are concerned that more people are turning their rentals into Airbnbs, which in turn drives up the cost of renting properties. As a result of that, it also drives up the renting cost for locals who need to rent a property, including young newlyweds and single mothers. The reduced availability of rental rooms increases demand, which in turn drives up the prices of non-Airbnb rentals,” he explained.
The minister added, “although we’ve seen this issue in Antigua and Barbuda, this government has built over a thousand homes and is planning on building many more, which somewhat cushions this problem.” He further stated that “the uptick in tourism arrivals has helped to create this demand. Also, since the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in visitor demand for Airbnb properties in most, if not all, tourism destinations. They want to go where there are fewer crowds and more freedom to stay in communities and get the real local experience.”
To address the issue, the Cabinet announced that it will tour several housing projects completed by National Housing and the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHAPA).
The government expects to construct hundreds of additional homes nationwide, and keys will be handed over to homeowners immediately upon completion.
These include the Booby Alley project, which has been delayed since 2018 due to the pandemic, resident protests, and litigation.