Olivier Grémillon says short-term rental websites are not to blame for housing crisis after criticism from MPs’ committee

Olivier Grémillon

Olivier Grémillon said Airbnb had to ensure that it did a better job of communicating rental regulations to people using the company. Photograph: Airbnb/PA

The European head of Airbnb has disputed claims that the company is driving up property prices and exacerbating London’s housing crisis.

Olivier Grémillon, the Europe managing director of Airbnb, said short-term home rental websites are not to blame for problems in the capital.

“There have been a few studies done by academics which said no, it doesn’t really increase the price of housing,” he said. “There is a housing shortage in London, [but] is it because of Airbnb? No. There are a lot of other reasons why prices are high.”

Grémillon said the company regularly looks at regional data to determine whether Airbnb’s activities are affecting local economies.

“We look into the data, we see if there [is] something there and if there is, we try to address [it], whether it’s on the tax side, whether it’s on the regulation [or] the communication of the regulation,” he said.

Earlier this month, Iain Wright, the chair of the business, innovation and skills committee, wrote to the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, highlighting the negative consequences of temporary lettings operations run by companies such as Airbnb, including their potential to drive up prices.

Wright said “many landlords appear to be operating illegally” by letting properties for more than 90 days a year, which requires a special permit.

The British Hospitality Association has claimed that Airbnb gives landlords a competitive advantage, helping them circumvent tax, food and health and safety regulations.

Grémillon said it was understandable that competitors were raising concerns in light of the company’s rapid UK growth. “The fact that it creates a reaction is normal,” he said. “[But] I don’t think the regulation will be tightened or should be tightened.

“We all need to do a better job of communicating the regulation so people know what the regulation is.”

Airbnb reported an 85% increase to 1.6 million guest arrivals across the country between June and August, compared with 860,000 over the same period last year.

Grémillon said Airbnb was holding talks with London boroughs to address concerns, but described existing regulations in the capital as “pretty fair and clear,” saying the 90-day rule was easy to understand.

“Is it the best regulation, business wise, that we have globally? No, not necessarily,” he said. “But there’s been some thinking behind it.”