New CIH study: Regulate short-term lets or risk displacement of long-term residents

The rapid growth of short-term lets such as Airbnb has been a boon to tourists and landlords, yet it could lead to the misappropriation of housing stock and displacement of long-term residents from their communities if left unregulated, new analysis from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has revealed.

The UK Housing Review 2019, which is published today, shows that in Edinburgh alone, there are over 10,000 short-term lets in the city, which accounts for two Airbnb lets for every 13 homes. On the more rural Isle of Skye, there is one Airbnb letting for every 10 homes.

New CIH study: Regulate short-term lets or risk displacement of long-term residents

The analysis makes clear from the concentration of short-term lets in particular locations across the country that the rise of Airbnb has been a highly localised phenomenon. It has created ultra-desirable neighbourhoods drawing in visitors from across the world at an ever-increasing rate.

There would be cause for concern if these properties have moved from the private rented sector to the short-term lettings sector for part of each year, and even greater cause for concern if they were now permanent short-term lets, unavailable to locals.

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;
  • prolonged loss of neighbourhood amenity, since it is often not just homes, but entire neighbourhoods, that are being shared; and
  • 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.

Practical suggestions for tackling these issues include:

  • 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);
  • 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); and
  • caps through the planning system by local authorities on the number of short-term rentals in particular high-pressure areas.

Commenting on the findings of the Review, CIH Scotland’s national director Callum Chomczuk said: “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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