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Short-term letting: growing concern over loss of ‘much-needed’ long-term lets

More needs to be done to stem the increase in short-term lets on Airbnb and similar platforms to ensure that there are a sufficient number of homes available for long-term residents, fresh analysis suggests.

A surge in the numbers of lets on Airbnb and other short-term rental websites has contributed to the widening supply-demand imbalance in the PRS, which in turn is placing upward pressure on rental values in some parts of the country, and this trend looks set to continue if the industry is left unregulated, according to research by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

The UK Housing Review 2019, published last week, shows that in Greater London alone, there are more than 77,000 short-term lets, while Edinburgh has over 10,000 short-term lets.

This is the not the first time that there have been calls for new restrictions on Airbnb and other short-term letting websites in this country.

Berlin, Barcelona, and Paris have all passed measures to regulate the short-term rental sector with a view to averting landlords from favouring short-term rental agreements and to keep their rentals on the long-term housing market.

The CIH says that the potential impacts of the growth in short-term lets include non-compliance by hosts with existing regulations, such as insurance, fire safety and planning permission.

There is also concern that prolonged loss of neighbourhood amenity, since it is often not just homes, but entire neighbourhoods, that are being shared, while there is an impact on local housing markets both with respect to rising rents and increased property values, especially in tightly bounded local areas, such as Edinburgh’s New Town.

The professional body has offered some practical suggestions for tackling these issues including ensuring that better data exists on short-term lets, so that local authorities can keep track of their growth and location (Airbnb have pioneered this in Barcelona).

It also believes that introducing a modest local tourism tax to assist local authorities in the monitoring and regulation of the short-term lettings sector (City of Edinburgh councillors voted in favour of a tourist tax in February) will help.

Finally, it sees caps through the planning system by local authorities on the number of short-term rentals, in particular high-pressure areas, as a potential solution.

CIH Scotland’s national director, Callum Chomczuk, commented: “Digital platforms like Airbnb have brought great convenience to tourists who come to enjoy our cities and communities, as well as economic benefit to their local hosts. However, if left unregulated, there is a real risk of loss of much-needed housing from the private rented sector to the short-term lets market, and displacement of long-term residents.

“We need to find a way to accommodate the rights of individual residents and preserve neighbourhood amenity whilst also allowing the continuation of high-volume tourism in our most popular locations.

“Last year, the City of Edinburgh Council welcomed a proposed amendment to the Planning Bill that would make it harder for people to turn their homes into short-term lets but it is clear that further regulation may be required to ensure that the correct balance is struck.”

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