I Do Like To Airbnb Beside The Seaside: Rapid expansion of short-term letting sites in Brighton and Hove is damaging local communities

March 28, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Brighton and Hove council, among others across England, is lobbying to be granted powers to regulate Airbnb and other short-term letting sites, in order to alleviate their negative impact on its communities.

What does this mean?

The rise in popularity of sites like Airbnb, and recent legislative changes making long-term letting less profitable, mean that short-term lets are becoming increasingly prevalent across the UK. The number of UK Airbnb listings rose by 14% to 257,000 between May 2019 and January 2020. A Guardian investigation found that in some “hotspot” areas, there is one Airbnb listing for every four homes. Councils are demanding that the government grants them powers to regulate this fast-growing industry and reduce its impact on their residents. If granted, these powers would allow councils to place a 90-day per year cap on rentals. Airbnb claims that most properties listed on the site are already rented for less than this. Councils would also be able to subject owners of these properties to a licensing scheme and business tax rates. The Scottish Parliament has already given its councils powers to regulate short-term lets by implementing a licensing scheme.

What's the big picture effect?

This story highlights the adverse effects of the rapidly expanding short-term letting industry on local communities. It restricts the housing stock available to people looking for long-term tenancies. Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “the pressure put on the availability of local housing by Airbnb in some areas of the UK is intolerable”. The lack of licensing requirements and business tax rates imposed on Airbnb hosts gives them an unfair competitive advantage over hoteliers and owners of B&Bs. “Hotels and B&Bs must be licensed, but Airbnb houses don’t need licensing. Airbnb hosts make money the same way as hotels and B&Bs. They should pay business rates. It’s very unfair competition”, said one councillor. Due to the revolving door of short-term renters, and the fact that many properties are holiday homes that are deserted for most of the year, areas saturated by short-term lets can lose their community feel. Residents also complain of being frequently woken by loud partying. So, should councils be able to regulate short-term letting sites to mitigate their negative impact on local residents, or is the disturbance to be tolerated as part of living in one of Britain’s trendiest areas?

Report written by Isobel Deane

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