Self-catering bosses accuse Edinburgh council chiefs of making them Airbnb 'scapegoats'

An umbrella body for self-catering operators has blasted council plans to crackdown on Airbnbs and other short term lets.

Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 7:16 pm

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The explosion in short-term lets – which are separate from self-catering establishments – has led to antisocial behaviour, housing shortages and gentrification.

Since 2016, there has been a significant rise in short term letting (STL) properties in Edinburgh, particularly on the Airbnb platform.

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Airbnb lock-boxes on West Bow in the centre of Edinburgh.

But the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), say their members are being used as ‘a convenient scapegoat’ and should not be treated in the same way as other short-term lets which will be subject to a city-wide control zone under the council draft proposals.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive officer of the ASSC, said: “Edinburgh City Council’s draft proposals for a short-term let control zone covering the entire city are wholly disproportionate and lack an empirical evidence base to substantiate claims that such accommodation has reduced housing stock.

“Furthermore, their proposals appear to rely on pre-pandemic listings from one online platform only and this does not provide an accurate reflection of the situation.

'Scapegoats' - Fiona Cameron of the ASSC

“Self-catering properties have been a long-standing presence in the capital for decades, enhancing the tourist offering and boosting the local economy, and should not be used as a convenient scapegoat for policy failures elsewhere."

Ms Campbell continued: “Communities are being hoodwinked into believing that regulating short-term lets out of existence will act as a panacea when in reality, we have failed to build enough affordable homes or bring large numbers of empty properties back into use.

“Last year, self-catering generated £50m for Edinburgh’s economy. For a city that is renowned for its hospitality, it is very disappointing that local policymakers are looking to solve multifaceted housing challenges in Edinburgh by concentrating on tourist accommodation and damaging small businesses in the process.”

She added: “The ASSC looks forward to supplying evidence to the upcoming consultation by the council and highlighting the need for balanced, targeted and proportionate regulation for the benefit of all concerned stakeholders in the city.”

,According to Edinburgh City Council officials, more than a third of Scotland’s STL properties are believed to be in the capital.

This has heaped pressure on a property market – forcing residents out of their communities and speeding up the gentrification of the north-east and Leith.

Previously, it was thought too costly to crackdown on short term lets but now council officers believe planning and licensing fees can be used to cover enforcement costs.

This has led to Edinburgh City Council chiefs to propose a citywide ‘control area’ – where property owners must acquire planning permission to operate an STL.

During this process, council officers and councillors will be able to determine whether a short term let is suitable based on density, residential amenity and housing shortages in the area.

The control area would be citywide, as opposed to focussing on the city centre and Leith, where the majority of STLs are situated, because of fears this would lead to a high concentration of STLs in neighbouring areas.

Under the proposals, if a home has been changed to secondary letting and continually operated as a STL for more than 10 years before a STL control area is designated and no enforcement action has been taken during that time, planning permission would not be required.

Also, generally, renting out a room in your house or letting your property whilst on holiday would also still be allowed if Edinburgh became an STL control zone.

Separately, the Scottish Government is currently consulting on legislation to introduce a licensing scheme for STL operators.

Now, the council has agreed to launch a consultation with the city’s residents on the scope of the proposed control zone.

At a meeting of the council’s planning committee on Wednesday August 11, councillors voted to launch the consultation, with the results set to be reported back to the council, before a final proposal is sent to Scottish Government ministers.

According to PLACE, a grassroots network of Edinburgh residents fighting back against short term lets, those who remain in areas with high concentrations of holiday lets are faced with antisocial behaviour, increased rent, and the dissolution of their communities.

A spokesperson said: “Neighbours of short-term lets are almost guaranteed to experience anti-social behaviour from customers.

“Alcohol is a regular contributing factor which makes these situations particularly unpredictable and intimidating to deal with.

“Members of the PLACE network regularly describe issues relating to waste disposal, parking issues, noise, people returning late at night or arriving early in the morning, customers ringing the wrong doorbells or trying to enter the wrong doors, banging on doors, setting off fire alarms, barking dogs when animals are not allowed, friends of “guests” attending the property, parties, over-occupation, verbal abuse, damage to property, intoxication, intrusion into private space, drinking and smoking in communal spaces, and tampering with residents’ property.”

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