Plea from Edinburgh City Council for Airbnb owners to return flats to residential use

Leader Adam McVey warned those operating illegally that enforcement action would be undertaken.

Cllr Adam McVey has called on short-term let landlords to return their properties to the residential market.

Airbnb owners and short-term let landlords in Edinburgh are being urged to return their properties to the residential market or offer them up for homeless accommodation.

Edinburgh City Council’s leader Adam McVey made the plea after the Scottish Government confirmed that short-term lets in shared stairwells remain banned and would have to stay closed despite other self-catered accommodation reopening on Friday July 3.

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The council added it will take action if holiday lets in communal stairs do open illegally, but listings on Airbnb showed more than 300 properties available to rent in the Capital.

The news also comes as the council examines the next step for its temporary accommodation offering for homeless people.

During lockdown, the council secured an additional 500 beds for homeless people, including an additional 230 in short-term let accommodation, a rise of 48 per cent.

At a meeting of the council’s Policy and Sustainability Committee this Thursday, the council will consider how it will continue to support the homeless, with a potential £5.7m cost to the authority during 2020/21 if it continues to support rough sleepers and those with “no recourse to public funds”.

Council leader, the SNP’s Adam McVey, said he wants to see the council work with landlords to return properties to their “rightful” use as homes, not holiday lets.

He said: “I want to see us work with rather than against landlords to make the rental market fairer on everybody who lives here. As we recover from this pandemic, we have a real opportunity to work together.

“We can jointly support our City's most vulnerable residents and return properties to their rightful purpose as homes.

“We face a huge challenge housing people who need it, and we’re saying strongly and clearly that landlords running short-term lets from residentials without permission should stop and move their property back into residential use. This can be part of the solution.

"However, as lockdown restrictions begin to ease, we also need to be clear that we will take action if required.

“With the health risks associated with Covid-19 it is absolutely vital that all forms of accommodation are properly managed and that those with shared facilities remain closed following government guidance.

“We welcome this decision and short-term let operators who fail to comply with these regulations or operate without permission should be aware that it will be a priority for us to take any enforcement action available to us.”

Depute leader of the council, Labour’s Cammy Day, said: "We certainly can't and we shouldn't go back to the situation we were in before, where much needed properties for people to live in were wrongly being used as poorly-managed holiday lets. Now, more than ever, Edinburgh needs these properties back as homes.

"We’ve done an incredible amount of work to get to where we are now but we urgently need access to more housing. Property owners have the chance to give back to the City in the aftermath of the Coronavirus crisis. Let's switch holiday lets for housing and help our citizens facing homelessness."

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