Edinburgh’s ‘rampant’ Airbnb growth ‘hollowing out’ city

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Edinburgh’s “rampant” Airbnb issues have escalated, with the number of entire houses or flats now available to let in the city rocketing from 5,474 to 7,366 in the past 12 months.

The figures come as the capital gears up for an influx of visitors coming to town for its internationally renowned New Year celebrations.

Edinburgh was packed for the Festival in the summer and is now is gearing up for an influx of visitors for its New Year celebrations. Picture: TSPL

Edinburgh was packed for the Festival in the summer and is now is gearing up for an influx of visitors for its New Year celebrations. Picture: TSPL

But critics say local residents are suffering due to the massive increase in privately rented holiday accommodation.

Knock-on effects include a lack of homes for long-term lease, as well as issues with noise and disruption for those living in apartment blocks

Lothian MSP Andy Wightman, housing spokesman for the Scottish Greens, warns the issue is “hollowing out” the capital and other tourist hotspots across Scotland.

He says many of his constituents have experienced antisocial behaviour, loss of community and anxiety from not knowing who is coming and going in shared stairwells.

“Hogmanay is usually a time for celebration but there’s no joy in the fact that Edinburgh’s housing crisis is being exacerbated by the rampant nature of the short-term lets industry,” he said.

“The growth seen in Edinburgh in the past year will be galling to the many residents whose neighbourhoods have been fragmented, and families being squeezed out in their search for affordable homes.”

Annual visitor numbers in Edinburgh have increased by half a million over the past five years, up to 3.85 million. Despite reports of overcrowding in the city centre, there are plans to increase visitor numbers by another third by 2020.

Edinburgh’s tourism industry brings £1.5 billion to the city’s economy. Hogmanay is worth more than £39 million, with 166,000 people attending ticketed events last year.

Recent reports suggest the number of Airbnb lets on offer in Edinburgh is now proportionately four times greater than in London or Paris.

On top of social issues, Mr Wightman points out there is also a tax gap as property owners pay no business rates.

It was reported earlier this year that UK households had earned £675mfrom Airbnb rentals since July 2016 – an average of £3,000 per host.

Earlier this year, Holyrood’s local government committee agreed an amendment to the forthcoming Planning Bill from Mr Wightman. If passed, changing the use of property from a home to a short-term let will need full planning consent from the local authority.

He added: “It’s clear we need to give local councils more power to control the rapid and unregulated growth of this sector, otherwise we will continue to see the capital city and other affected communities hollowed out.”

The Scottish Government has set up a delivery group to examine the issues around short-term lets and identify possible solutions.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “We want to ensure that local authorities have the appropriate regulatory powers to allow them to take the decisions to balance the needs and concerns of their communities with wider economic and tourism interests. These powers will allow local authorities to ensure a safe, quality experience for visitors, whilst protecting the interests of local communities.”