Airbnb-style short-term lets in Edinburgh: SNP government has caved in to industry over real controls on their numbers – Cammy Day
It’s widely accepted that short-term lets in parts of our city are a significant problem.
What started out as a useful additional provision for holidaymakers has grown out of control.
In the Royal Mile area, for example, flats rented out for a week or even a few days comprise a huge part of the available housing.
In some stairs only one or two flats are home to local residents. Not only does this destroy a sense of community in the area but the decline in the number of permanent residents reduces demands for essential local services.
The effect? The closure of local corner shops that are replaced by more souvenir outlets. Families with young children are less willing to move to the area and the local population ages.
There is less demand for local school places and community groups find it increasingly difficult to recruit volunteers. And, of course, using housing for tourists further increases the Edinburgh housing shortage.
For some years, I and my Labour Group colleagues have been working with other parties to persuade the Scottish government to give us the powers to tackle the problem.
We welcome their decision to bring such properties under the planning and licensing system. That has led to strong lobbying from holiday let companies. I have been on the receiving end of this and so has Scottish government.
Unfortunately, however, the Scottish government has caved in. They have removed the power of local authorities to control the number of short-term lets in any area.
Yes, there are a number of other minor controls but if we cannot control the number of tourist flats in the Royal Mile and other areas, the other provisions are worthless. If we can’t control numbers, we can’t tackle the problem at source.
Tourism brings many benefits to Edinburgh and the council spends considerable time and money promoting and managing it. Short-term lets are not managed and will remain out of control.
We can see what happens when this growth is not controlled and tourism and holiday lets dominate huge areas of cities such as Venice and Barcelona, which have been forced to take much more radical steps to control them.
In Edinburgh, we had the opportunity to deal with the problem with more modest measures. However, the SNP government has listened to big business rather than to the local community.
Meanwhile, last week saw the end of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence and to mark this work, last Friday I joined the ‘Light up the Night Cycle’ highlighting the need for night-time cycling infrastructure in Edinburgh that is safe and fit for purpose for women and girls.
Across the world, the safety and rights of women seem at last to be high on the agenda. We need to also be looking to deliver ‘Get me Home Safe’ campaigns to ensure women working late in the hospitality industry are provided with safe travel home by employers across our capital city.
On behalf of the Edinburgh Labour Group, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and best wishes for a better and successful 2022.
Cammy Day is a councillor for the Forth ward and Labour group leader