Regulate short-term lets or risk displacing 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 loss of private rented homes to the short-term lets market 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, suggests that Airbnb alone has over 77,000 lets in Greater London, 55.4 per cent of which are entire homes. The bulk of the lets are heavily concentrated in Westminster (8,328), Tower Hamlets (7,513), and Hackney (5,907) boroughs.

rules stamp - short-term lets are under scrutiny

Edinburgh has over 10,000 short-term lets, with its city centre ward alone having two Airbnb lets for every 13 homes, while the Isle of Skye in rural Scotland has one Airbnb letting for every 10 houses.

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 ‘globalhoods’ - ultra-desirable neighbourhoods drawing in visitors from across the globe 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 communal spaces, conveniences and facilities, since it is 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 quite tightly bounded local areas, such as Edinburgh’s New Town.

Practical suggestions for tackling these issues include:

  • Ensuring that better data exist 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, and
  • Caps through the planning system by local authorities on the number of short-term rentals in particular high-pressure areas.

CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE 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 hosts and local areas. 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 housing needs of individual residents while allowing tourism to continue in our most popular locations. More regulation could be necessary if growth continues and local authorities still have no way to accurately monitor numbers.”