MSP bids to change law to tackle growth of Airbnbs

CAMPAIGNING Lothian Green MSP Andy Wightman is bidding to change the law to help tackle the growth in Airbnbs.

Tuesday, 24th July 2018, 9:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th July 2018, 9:22 pm
The law change would target Airbnb owners in Scotland

He says anyone wanting to turn their property from a main or sole residence into a short-term let should have to apply for full planning consent.

And he has published proposed amendments to the Scottish Government’s Planning Bill to bring about the change.

Mr Wightman said the rapid expansion of short-term lets in Edinburgh was depriving the city of £10.6 million in taxes each year.

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Under his proposals, local authorities would be able to decide short-term let applications on the basis of local policy and impose limits if they chose.

But homeowners who only rent out a room would not have to apply for planning consent.

Mr Wightman said: “Since being elected in 2016, I’ve been inundated by Edinburgh constituents concerned about the loss of housing supply and an increase in anti-social behaviour.”

He has branded the growth of Airbnb properties and the resulting disappearance of badly-needed homes as “a modern-day clearance taking place in the centre of Edinburgh”.

Mr Wightman, who is the Scottish Greens’ housing spokesman, also wants people to be required to get planning consent before a main residence can be turned into a holiday home.

He said in many rural areas local people and families were being forced into inappropriate temporary accommodation or forced to leave the area.

Mr Wightman said: “The uncontrolled and rapid rise in short-term lets in our cities and the long-standing problem of second homes in our rural communities is depriving families and individuals of badly-needed long-term homes, worsening Scotland’s housing crisis. To date the Scottish Government has shown no interest in tackling these issues, so I intend to bring forward these amendments to the Planning Bill to make the changes we need to see.

“The Scottish Government has chosen not to bring short-term lets and holiday homes into the planning system, so I will lead the change. I want local councils to have powers to protect the availability of residential accommodation for local citizens.”

City housing and economy convener Kate Campbell said the council already expected people to seek permission for change of use if they wanted to turn their property into a short-term let. But she said the Scottish Government had agreed to consider a pilot scheme for licensing short-term lets in Edinburgh.

Cllr Campbell said that was the council’s preferred option rather than changing planning laws.

She said: “Planning is very resource intensive. There are 9000 short-term lets in the city and we would have to investigate each one because each case has to be decided on its merits. Our preferred route would be the regulatory one and the Government has said it will work with us to look at that.”

Mr Wightman said he welcomed views on his amendments ahead of them being heard at the committee stage of the Planning Bill in September.