Airbnb willing to make concessions in Singapore: policy chief

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Home-booking company Airbnb is willing to make some concessions on short-term rentals in Singapore in an attempt to appease concerns of the government, a top executive said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Airbnb head of global policy and public affairs Chris Lehane speaks to Reuters in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

Strict rules in Singapore make the city state one of the toughest markets in which Airbnb operates. Two men were charged late last year for unauthorized short-term letting of apartments.

Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of global policy, told Reuters that the company had managed to make great progress in other markets, such as China and Cuba.

“We feel optimistic that as the government looks around and sees the 400 plus partnerships that have been done, that if we can figure this out in Cuba, we should be able to figure it out here in Singapore,” Lehane told Reuters on Monday.

When asked for comment, Singapore’s Ministry of National Development referred Reuters to a comment by its minister in late January that indicated that the government would seek public feedback around March or April on how to regulate short-term letting of property.

Lehane declined to confirm whether he was due to meet with government officials while in Singapore.

Private homes in Singapore are subject to a minimum rental period of three consecutive months, while for public housing, home to about 80 percent of Singapore’s residents, it is six months.

Airbnb said it has told Singapore’s government that, if asked, the company would not list public housing on the platform.

“We have so many examples from around the world, where there are different pieces that you could put into a framework that could work here, understanding that there are unique pieces here,” Lehane said.

He cited examples of Chicago’s“three strikes” policy, which bars hosts who repeatedly break the rules, while in New Orleans the company agreed to not list accommodation in the French Quarter.

Lehane said the company would also consider putting a cap on the number of days hosts in Singapore can rent their property. A registration system for hosts, which the company has put in place in other markets, would also help the government address any issues that may crop up, he said.

A high-population density and limited land mean most of Singapore’s 5.6 million people live in apartments.

While Singapore is not a large market for Airbnb, it serves as its headquarters for Asia Pacific.

About 15,000 people stayed in Airbnb listings for the Winter Olympics in South Korea last month, while China’s Lunar New Year holidays, when millions of people travel across the country, also helped business.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Neil Fullick