When you arrive in a new city, especially one as unique and international as Paris, you become hypersensitive to your surroundings. At least I have.
Paris is ‘foreign’ to me, in the sense that the natives do not speak English as their first language, and some of their customs and habits are unique. Unique not only to those who are not French, but even to the French who are not Parisians.
One of the first things my wife and I noticed when we moved into our new neighborhood here almost 3 years ago was the number of vacation rental apartments that populated our building and our arrondissement.
This had its charms: we met people from around the world who were visiting the city for a week or a month, and had some great conversations. It also had its downside: these same visitors were sometimes loud, often kept irregular hours (you hear everything in these stairwells) and were routinely oblivious to cultural differences or downright rude to their hosts and neighbors.
As Americans, my wife and I have a vested interest in Americans being polite while in Paris. We live here, and, as sophisticated as they are, Parisians do develop stereotypes of Americans, and they are sometimes, sadly, accurate. We sometimes have to work twice as hard to overcome them.
Furthermore, we came to Paris to live among Parisians, not tourists. While we appreciate the economic opportunities that renting out a 1 bedroom apartment for 300 euros a night presents to the owner, it does have its impact on the life, flavor, and residents of the city.
The officials of Paris and France have taken notice, and taken action. AirBnB style apartment rentals will be much more strictly regulated, with owners being required to register their units with the city, pay taxes on the income (!), and limit their rentals to 120 days per calendar year.
This math may dampen the interest in keeping an apartment for vacation rental: it appears it won’t be possible to do it year round, as many owners have done, or to do it under the radar. (Fines for violators will be in the 25,000 euro neighborhood. Not a typo.)
Another result (and hope) is that the new laws and decrees (they’re two different things here) will make more apartments available to middle class Parisians. Currently 1 in every 4 apartments in Paris is not owned or inhabited by a Parisian.
The shortage of affordable housing in Paris–and every other major city in the world–drives the change. Person to person vacation rentals were a natural outgrowth of the internet. Now, their turning historic, atmospheric neighborhoods like ours into tourist traps, replete with souvenir shops and fast food installations. I’m not amused.
Support is building for laws that would eliminate vacation rental apartments completely in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, arrondissements, according to one city hall veteran I spoke with. These are the historic centers of Paris: the Marais, the area around Notre Dame and the Pantheon, and the area around the Louvre.
As a resident of Paris, I support these changes. Yes, I love capitalism, but when it brings negative impacts greater than its benefits, it needs to be rethought.
And yes, I would love for everyone to visit Paris. Come, enjoy the culture, the history, the art, and the food. I’ll buy you a coffee at a sidewalk cafe, tell you stories about our time here, and give you advice on things to see and do.
But only if you stay in a hotel.
(More on Paris hotels in an upcoming post…)