Edinburgh housing crisis: Airbnb-style short-term lets should be regulated to help people get on the property ladder – Susan Dalgety

I have enjoyed the flexibility – and fun – of Airbnb lets across the world, from a 1950s bungalow in Pennsylvania, where we had to shelter from a tornado for several hours one scary November night, to a smart town house, complete with pool, in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.
The number of short-term lets has increased dramatically in recent years (Picture: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images)The number of short-term lets has increased dramatically in recent years (Picture: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images)
The number of short-term lets has increased dramatically in recent years (Picture: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images)

My all-time favourite was a sixth-floor flat in Athens with a direct view of the Parthenon from its tiny balcony.

But wherever we stay, whether it’s central London or rural France, we treat the Airbnb as our second home. I have even been known to spring clean the accommodation before departure, much to my husband’s amusement. And we don’t host raucous parties. Sharing a bottle of red wine while watching local TV is the most fun we have in the evenings.

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But I can understand why Edinburgh residents, particularly those who live in the city centre, object so strongly to short-term lets, particularly when they are used to host weekend-long parties.

And people are right to be concerned about the impact of short-term lets on the city’s housing market. Too many tenement flats, so long favoured by first-time buyers or renters, are now rented out for upwards of £250 a night, leaving Edinburgh folk chasing an ever-decreasing stock of affordable accommodation.

So Edinburgh City Council deserves praise for its plan to introduce a “control zone” where the owners of any property that is a permanent short-let will have to apply for planning permission. Renting out a room in your own home or letting your flat while on holiday will be exempt.

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The new zone is not anti-business, as Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers, said last week. It seems an honest attempt to balance the conflicting priorities of our beautiful city.

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Tourism is crucial to our economic well-being – generating around 30,000 jobs a year – and visitors need somewhere to stay. But there is a housing crisis in Edinburgh with many people priced out of either buying or renting a home. Short-term lets contribute to that problem.

The plan now goes to Scottish ministers for approval. Let’s hope it gets the backing of the government. Planning permission to convert a property into short-let accommodation is a small price to pay in return for a big profit.

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