'˜Emergency protest' held over short-term lets in Edinburgh

Protesters gathered outside the City Chambers yesterday as part of an 'emergency demonstration' over ongoing concerns about short-term lets.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 23rd January 2018, 11:13 am
Updated Friday, 26th January 2018, 3:19 pm
Green MSP Andy Wightman was among those at the protest
Green MSP Andy Wightman was among those at the protest

Members of Living Rent Scotland’s tenants’ union said they were staging the protest in response to the arrangement of a “last minute meeting” between Airbnb and city council officials.

It comes after the firm laid out the recommendations it made to an expert panel created by the Scottish Government to consider policy changes affecting short-terms lettings in Scotland.

It suggested a 90-day limit for landlords, but said the regulations should not include the peak periods during the Fringe in August and the Winter Festival period of December to January.

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The report, due to be published this week, will reveal proposals to shake up the short-term letting industry amid complaints from some residents who claim that the rise of rental flats let through companies such as Airbnb is ripping the heart out of their communities.

Living Rent spokesperson Emma Saunders said: “It is about time, Edinburgh city councillors organise a proper consultation to solve the housing crisis and Edinburgh, and this will come through listening to Edinburgh residents.

“AirBnB have organised a last minute meeting in Edinburgh with members of the city council, when tenants across the city have been excluded from any plans involving solutions to the crisis around short term lets which are pushing already unaffordable rents even higher.

“The short-term let sector is hovering up vital homes and renting them out at extortionate rates, luring in more and more landlords to take the chance on short term financial gain rather than providing decent affordable housing to residents.”

Green MSP Andy Wightman, among those in attendance, said he joined the protest to “stand in solidarity with those affected by a failing housing system in the city”.

He added: “The availability and affordability of homes in Edinburgh is worsening by the month and short-term lets are exacerbating this.”

AirBnB has previously claimed that the average Scottish host lets their home for just 38 days a year and that it wanted to make proposals to reflect the “unique balance” to be struck in Edinburgh city centre between accommodating tourists at peak times of year and eliminating unauthorised commercial operators.

A spokesman said: “Airbnb was designed to help people afford their homes, and we regularly meet hosts who use the additional income from hosting to help pay their rent and support their families.

“While local hosts typically earn less than £4000 a year, the positive impacts of hosting boosts the Scottish economy by £1 million a day.

“Airbnb wants to be regulated and we have worked with more than 300 governments around the world on clear home sharing rules - and we want to do the same in Edinburgh.”

Gavin Barrie, the council’s housing and economy convener, said: “In December, the council unanimously agreed a motion regarding short term lets.

“This morning I chaired a meeting to give councillors, officers and Airbnb the opportunity to discuss future regulation of the short term let industry.

“The meeting was very helpful and we will now work with officers on proposals, which will also be informed by the Scottish Government’s report, which will go to a future committee meeting.

“In order that we can find the right solution for Edinburgh we will also continue to work with industry groups and the Scottish Government regarding regulation going forward.”