Is pressure building for regulation of the short-term let market in Scotland?

Two years ago in April 2017 Indigo House’s Scoping Report on the demand and supply of short term lets in Scotland informed the Scottish Government’s Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy.

Our recommendations to Scottish and local governments then was to regulate this growing informal holiday lets sector  (AirBnB and similar) to help manage –

  • the impact of increasing short-term lets on permanent residential supply
  • the impact on change of amenity for existing residents and communities (increased noise and rubbish)
  • potential increased health and safety risks through the effective change of use, and
  • balance these risks with the positive impacts that short-term lets can have on Scotland’s tourism.

Two years on and we are awaiting publication from Scottish Government on some of its responses to the Expert Panel’s recommendations. Meanwhile, City of Edinburgh Council has increasing concerns over the impact on its communities and housing system and has set up a dedicated team to deal with complaints, but powers are limited. Fury is continuing to build from communities, and recent proposals to convert offices on the Royal Mile into short let apartments has led Edinburgh’s Old Town Community Council to argue that  “the rise of Airbnb has already critically damaged local amenity and liveability for actual residents of the Old Town”. Glasgow City Council was reportedly the first Scottish local authority to clamp down using Planning regulations to limit short-term lets in flats within a communal close. The Council enforced these new rules by banning a letting agent from renting out an entire flat for a short-term let, thought to be the first case of its kind in Scotland.

The Chartered Institute of Housing has now (possibly belatedly) recognised the issue in the UK Housing Review 2019, arguing the rapid growth of short-term lets could threaten the loss of private rented homes with displacement of long-term residents from their communities if left unregulated. Some commentators suggest that one consequence of the new Scottish Private Residential Tenancy with no minimum term is that landlords are making the binary choice between short lets and PRT, where they previously may have combined residential and short lets in the same property. That cause and effect is as yet to be proven, and of course doesn’t explain the exponential rise of short lets elsewhere in the UK.

It will be interesting to see what insight Scottish Government puts forward in its forthcoming publications later in April, and whether plans start to emerge on how to better balance the positive impacts that short-term lets can have on tourism, local economies and for home sharers, with the potential negative impacts on access to housing, and affordability.

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