Edinburgh Festival Fringe bosses painfully out of touch on housing crisis

Demanding people leave their homes and for Airbnbs to be allowed to run without licences during the Fringe as a solution to rising accommodation costs for performers and tourists demonstrates quite how out of touch festival bosses are.

The figures are these – 2.2 million tickets, more than 3,500 shows, but overall sales down around 25 per cent.

William Burdett-Coutts, the artistic director of Assembly, told the Guardian it had missed out on £7m of revenue, and blamed rising accommodation costs for the lower ticket sales.

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Mr Burdett-Coutts, welcome to Edinburgh, I see it is time for you to reap what the Fringe has sown.

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He suggested, as way of a solution, a legal loophole to kick people out of their homes for six weeks, to allow Airbnbs to operate outside of regulation that is not yet enforced, and a price cap.

And by people, of course he means students, who are in fact people and who often feel like mere cash-cows for both the private rental sector and the city itself.

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Edinburgh has faced an accelerating housing crisis for at least a decade, with rents being pushed skyward, and many two-bed flats now on the market for upwards of £1,300 across the city.

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Many Fringe bosses are blaming high accommodation costs for lower ticket sales.

If you’re happy with your kitchen being crammed into a corner or a sofa next to your fridge, you’ll pay around £1,100.

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Students struggle to find places to live as landlords price-gouge, make them compete with each other for a place to live or force them into extortionate privately-run student accommodation.

The lack of supply in Edinburgh was partly driven by the explosion of short-term lets, sparked by a need for cheap Fringe accommodation.

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This accommodation was already way above normal rental rates pre-pandemic and an easy way for a landlord to make as much as they would for a month in just a week.

For Mr Burdett-Coutts to make the suggestions he has demonstrates beyond doubt that he and other Fringe bosses have no idea what is driving high prices during August.

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It is not government’s job to ensure tourists have cheap places to stay in August and worsen a housing crisis residents continue to suffer.

Capital residents deserve affordable homes and it’s time Fringe bosses remembered that.

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The sixth and final episode of the brand new limited series podcast, How to be an independent country: Scotland’s Choices, is out now.

It is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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