Regulating short term lets balances catering to tourists and residents finding suitable housing - Angus Robertson

I have yet to meet a single person who does not believe there should be a balanced mixture of housing and accommodation provision that suits Edinburgh residents and visitors alike.

That is why there is widespread support for sensible regulation of short-term lets (STL), which have been both a blessing for many visitors but also hollowed out parts of Scotland’s capital city.

According to the Chartered Institute of Housing, in Edinburgh, nearly 1 in 6 homes are a short-term let. In the centre, it is 1 in 4. That’s 812 STL listings for every square kilometre. You need only walk past tenement buildings and see the number of lock boxes to see that, in some individual buildings, nearly every single dwelling is a STL.

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What’s more, many STLs are totally unsuitable with little care for health and safety of those who rent them, or for permanent residents nearby or the building fabric. One small two-bedroom apartment on Airbnb is currently advertised for 9 people to live in. The dragging around of large suitcases in the city’s narrow closes and stairwells inside and out of buildings, as well as rowdy guests have also been a blight in the city centre which, let’s not forget, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Crucially, we know that house prices have been driven up by the huge profits available to those who rent out STLs. It is virtually impossible for a low- to mid-income family to reside in the city centre. Does all this seem right to you?

It's important to clarify that the proposed measures to regulate STLs are not a sudden, drastic change. STL hosts have already had a 20-month window to align with mandatory licensing conditions, some of which are already required by existing legislation.

Furthermore, it is disingenuous to say that this is suddenly being foisted upon those with STLs by the City of Edinburgh or indeed any other Council. Local authorities have been implementing schemes since 2022 and have already issued thousands of short-term rental licenses.

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Despite some claims, there is no cap on the overall number of rentals any one operator can have. But there will be a requirement for their rentals to be suitable for rent, including fire and gas standards. That is consistent with the basic duties of care one would expect and that are required in hotels, hostels and caravan parks. This ought not to be controversial.

To those seeking to continue to operate STLs going forward, there are requirements for both new and existing hosts under the proposed regulations. New hosts, who did not operate before October 2022, must secure a short-term license prior to accepting bookings and welcoming guests. Hosts who were operational before October 2022, must submit their license applications by October 1, 2023. The licensing authorities are given a maximum of 12 months to review and process applications from existing hosts. During this evaluation period, existing hosts can continue their operations.

Licensing offers an equitable system to address local issues, providing operators and local residents with a clear understanding of what to expect. This approach aims to bridge divisions, instil confidence, and promote high-quality businesses. In addition to licensing, local authorities have the ability to establish control areas to manage short-term rental numbers, especially when these rentals cause problems for neighbours and exacerbate housing shortages.

Regulating short term let accommodation strikes a balance between catering to tourists and ensuring that residents can find suitable housing without undue disruption. It is the right way forward and we should get on with it.

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