misterb&b has positioned itself as the Airbnb for gay men around the world.
The debate about whether short-term rentals should be permitted in Singapore continues to make news, after a public consultation conducted by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) provided no clear consensus on the issue.
Currently, it is illegal to rent out entire apartments or rooms to visitors for less than six months, but many homeowners still take the risk, just to earn extra income.
Airbnb and PandaBed are two examples of short-term rental websites that have flourished here in recent years, featuring hundreds of properties available for rent on a daily basis, from modest looking rooms in HDB flats to luxury apartments in Orchard Road.
The use of gay-oriented website misterb&b has also been quietly growing in recent months. Modelled after Airbnb, it’s open to all travellers and hosts, and allows you to book a room or an entire unit from a gay-friendly host. Started in Paris three years ago, the portal already has a large global community.
A check on misterb&b showed there are currently 35 listings in Singapore, with prices ranging from $28 per night for a room in the western part of Singapore, to $279 for a night’s stay in a boutique apartment in Bukit Timah.
Homeowners here who rent out their properties on misterb&b comprise both locals and expatriates. PropertyGuru tried reaching out to a misterb&b spokesperson for further comment, but didn’t get an immediate response.
A press release for the website’s launch in 2013 revealed that one of the main reasons for starting misterb&b was to provide a safer and more welcoming environment for gay visitors.
French entrepreneur Matthieu Jost, co-founder and CEO of misterb&b, said: “Having had experience renting apartments to individuals, I quickly realised the limitations of apartment rental sites. I could sometimes notice how apartment owners felt uncomfortable with me staying with my boyfriend, and it made us feel uncomfortable too.
“This is why I had the idea to create an apartment rental website specifically tailored for the gay community, where anyone can be accommodated in the best conditions possible.”
There’s even a YouTube video highlighting some of the reasons why overseas hosts rent their places out on misterb&b. These include being able to pay for a gym membership, shop more, eat more often in restaurants, and even finance a dream vacation to Paris.
40-year-old Johari Ahmad told PropertyGuru that given the grey laws on homosexuality in Singapore, he would be wary of advertising his unit on misterb&b, as the authorities may choose to crack down on such activities.
“You never know what the authorities can do even when they say they will not interfere in the private lives of citizens,” the property agent said.
Marketing manager Ryan Tan, 36, is more open to the idea of opening up his home for gay-oriented short-term stays. “It’s not illegal to be gay or to be friendly to gay travellers,” he said.
He also doesn’t understand why short-term rentals are still illegal in Singapore. “Long-term rentals allow homeowners to make rental income, so why can’t the same apply for short-term rentals?”
Both men said they would use misterb&b to find accommodation when travelling overseas.
“Knowing that the homeowner is gay or gay-friendly would mean I can refer to him or her for questions that are related to my needs, like where are the most happening gay bars and clubs, eateries that are gay-friendly, and even medical services that cater to homosexuals,” said Tan.
While Ahmad reckons having a gay-friendly landlord is a huge plus, there are other important considerations as well, such as the location, price, accessibility and maintenance of the property.
With this year’s Pink Dot taking place this Saturday, 4 June, Paerin Choa, spokesman for the annual freedom to love rally, said: “LGBT travellers have as much right to feel safe as other travellers, and such services to help LGBT people find discrimination-free spaces to stay in are invaluable.
“Although we do have a vocal but small group of people who discriminate against the LGBT community, Singapore is a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-racial country, and I believe that Singaporeans are generally accepting of diversity and that they do not concern themselves with what other people might do in the privacy of their homes,” he added.