Fears coastal communities could become ‘ghost towns’ with spike in Airbnb-style homes | United Kingdom | News

They warn that too many residential homes are being converted to properties used only for short-term tourist rentals, driving up the cost of housing and crippling short-staffed businesses because workers cannot afford to live nearby.

An amendment to the Government Leveling and Regeneration Bill was signed by 25 Tory backbenchers, including North Devon MP Selaine Saxby, who said: ‘The tourist economy is vital to us , but things got completely out of balance.”

Ms Saxby said: “In the period I live in, during the pandemic, only five out of 30 properties were occupied. This gives you an indication of the number of second homes and vacation rentals.

“It drives up prices and it is extremely difficult for people who want to work to settle in the region. Our pubs and restaurants can’t open full time because they can’t recruit staff, our hospital has 20% vacancies and it’s even worse in social services.

She added: ‘We need properties for tourists, but the idea is that the council could say no to an area where there are too many, or accommodate them in areas where more are needed.

Other supporters of the amendment include senior Tory Iain Duncan Smith and former environment secretary Theresa Villiers.

This would require owners to apply for planning permission before converting any home previously used as a primary residence, whether owner-occupied or rented, to use as a short-term rental property.

Households that earn extra income by using services like Airbnb to rent out their place for a short time would not be affected.

The House of Commons was due to debate the bill tomorrow, but it was delayed by the government after backbench MPs led by Ms Villiers tabled a separate amendment that would prevent the government from imposing construction targets council accommodation.

Upgrade Secretary Michael Gove and Housing Minister Lucy Frazer are currently in talks with the rebels in a bid to find a compromise and avoid the prospect of defeat when the bill returns to the Commons.

Ms Villiers told the Sunday Express: “At the moment there is a gap between the back benches and the front bench on this, but if we can sort this out and find something that we can all get then obviously that would be best result.”

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