Edinburgh’s housing: Short-term let sector proposes own registration scheme

Short-term rentals, including Airbnb accommodation, are the focus of heavy debate in Edinburgh
Short-term rentals, including Airbnb accommodation, are the focus of heavy debate in Edinburgh
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A REGISTRATION scheme for short-term lets which would allow councils to limit the number in certain areas has been proposed by a trade body for the sector.

But the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) wants the power to impose a cap on short-term accommodation only to apply where an area has been designated a Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) by the Scottish Government.

And Lothian Green MSP Andy Wightman, who has campaigned for regulation of short-term lets, dismissed the idea as a “non-starter” because it would not give councils enough scope to tackle the problem.

The ASSC said under its proposal for a simple online registration scheme, short-term lets would be registered with the council to create a transparent network so the council could assess the prevalence and distribution of short-term lets.

And it said in areas of demonstrable housing pressure where an RPZ has been declared, short-term lets of whole homes for over 140 nights a year could be restricted by the council.

ASSC chair Linda Battison said: “There is no question about the positive economic impact self-catering has but we acknowledge that tourism and the needs of local communities must be carefully balanced to ensure that Scotland’s warm welcome is not threatened.

“We believe our approach is sensible, proportionate, and in line with government policy.

“If implemented fairly it will allow our sector to provide accommodation where it is needed without upsetting the important balance between visitors and residents.”

Edinburgh is asking for an RPZ to cap rent increases amid concerns demand for housing has pushed city-centre prices beyond what people can afford.

But city housing and economy convener Kate Campbell said short-term lets also raised different issues. She said: “Pressure on housing supply is one issue with the growth of short-term lets, but others are anti-social behaviour and the impact on the community.”

She said the city council wanted a registration scheme for short-term lets which would take into account the type of property, for example tenement flats, as well as the concentration of such lets in the area.

Mr Wightman said: “This is a non-starter. RPZs themselves are extremely difficult to implement and housing shortages are taking place across Scotland, not just in RPZs.

“Our view is we need to modernise planning law and also introduce licensing - and if local authorities want to have different approaches as to how to implement those powers that’s perfectly ok. The key is to give local authorities as wide powers as possible so they can make the decisions about how narrowly or how widely to use those powers.”

The Short Term Accommodation Association, which includes Airbnb, said it welcomed all contributions to the debate around short-term rental regulation. But it warned: “Overly complex rules may deter casual hosts from letting their homes, and we therefore advocate rules which are clear, fair and simple for people to follow.”