Scottish government to speed up laws to crack down on Airbnb-style short-term rentals

A CRUSH on Airbnb-style short-term rentals will be rolled out before next summer – amid calls to ensure new rules help ease pressure on housing markets across Scotland.

The Scottish government had suspended plans to introduce a licensing regime amid the Covid-19 pandemic, along with a slew of other laws that will not see the light of day until next year’s Holyrood elections.

But Housing Minister Kevin Stewart will speed up the handing over of new powers to councils in the coming months – with the intention that the new regulations will be in place before Holyrood is disbanded for next year’s poll.

While licensing rules, which could include local authorities with the power to set up “short-term rental control zones” under planning regulations, will be welcomed by local authorities. Edinburgh tourism bosses in Skye, which has an even higher concentration of controversial accommodation, have warned businesses not to want “an additional administrative burden for next season”.

In Edinburgh, evidence suggests that the explosion in short-term rentals is contributing to a housing crisis – the decline in available rentals coinciding with the rise in Airbnb listings.

In the city center of the capital, the housing stock is now more available for short-term rental than for traditional private rental housing.

A report also suggested that only one in 500 Airbnb listings in Edinburgh has a building permit.

Capital council officials have pleaded for short-term landlords to hand over their properties to help shelter the city’s homeless population during the Covid-19 lockdown, but a licensing regime is underway. introduction could lead to a ban on Airbnb rentals in apartments with shared stairs.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Edinburgh’s Airbnb apartments help tackle homelessness crisis

Concerns were expressed over the restart of the short-term rental industry in Edinburgh from July 15, when restrictions were lifted for the tourism industry.

Residents and activists had pleaded for short-term rentals to remain closed with the virus still a public health threat, but Mr Stewart warned there was “no reason to delay reopening of independent accommodation with common facilities “.

He added: “I understand the concerns of Edinburgh residents in apartment buildings, and others with shared facilities, but we need to be guided by medical and scientific advice.”

In a letter to the Holyrood local government committee, Mr. Stewart confirmed that “after halting work on the regulation of short-term rentals to deal with the pandemic, we have now resumed our work”.

He added: “We aim to establish regulations giving local authorities the power to authorize short-term rentals and introduce control zones in December so that they can be in effect by spring 2021.

“As part of the preparation to do this, we will engage stakeholders on our detailed proposals in the fall.

“The delay caused by Covid-19 requires this commitment period to be shorter than initially planned, but we will ensure that the process is efficient to refine our proposals and finalize the regulatory texts. ”

The new powers will allow municipalities to introduce short-term rental control zones and to “carefully and urgently review the tax treatment of short-term rentals,” which “would ensure that they make an appropriate contribution to local communities and support local services. Added Mr. Stewart.

READ MORE: Council to take over short-term rentals in capital and use them as homeless housing

Edinburgh City Council has already released what it would like to see in a licensing regime, including the ability to cap the number of short-term rentals in parts of the city and ensure properties are compliant to health and safety rules – while responding to complaints from residents about anti-social behavior.

Council Housing Manager Kate Campbell said: “We have identified that licensing is the best way for us to be able to properly control short-term rentals and prevent the negative impacts they have had on. our city and our residents.

“We will continue to take action through planning, tackling anti-social behavior and, frankly, whatever avenues open to us, but we know the game changer for Edinburgh will be a regime of change. Licence. We are therefore delighted that this work is progressing in the Scottish Parliament and we will be given the powers we need to protect homes and communities. ”

But politicians warned the plans would not go far enough to halt the impact the industry would have on communities.

Scottish Greens’ housing spokesperson Andy Wightman has called for greater regulation of short-term rentals.

He said: “The Covid crisis has really brought to light the impact of illegal short-term rentals, especially when they occur in shared buildings. Any licensing regime needs to be strong and recognize the impact of this poorly regulated market on housing supply, as well as the impact these properties have on the surrounding community.

“The Scottish government’s proposals must go further. For example, it is clear that no license should be issued unless appropriate planning consent is in place. Each successful claim is another house taken out of service, so boards should be given the opportunity to reject claims based on the impact on their jurisdiction. ”

Labor local government spokeswoman Sarah Boyack added: “I welcome the fact that ministers have listened to concerns about the potential delay in introducing new licensing powers for short-term rentals to local authorities and have resumed work on their proposals.

“The key issue is that the areas of control that local councils will have the power to establish will allow for effective regulation and accountability. ”

“We have an urgent housing shortage in Edinburgh, so I will be eager to see the details proposed by ministers to provide the promised taxation to ensure” an appropriate contribution to local communities and support local services “given the massive pressure on currently the council finances, due to years of underfunding.

Ahead of the pandemic, a new study found that nearly one in five homes on Skye are listed on Airbnb.

But the island’s tourism executives have warned that any draconian rule could hit businesses as they try to recover from the Covid-19 crisis.

A spokesperson for SkyeConnect said: ‘It is difficult to project at this time next year, but we would like to think that the Scottish Government would recognize the pressure that has been placed on the tourism industry this year and do not would add no additional administrative burden for the next season.

“Short term rentals are an important part of the tourism economy in Skye and we recognize that there are some issues that will need to be addressed. However, we are not convinced that a licensing system is necessarily the way to go and we need time to consider other options. ”

“In general terms, SkyeConnect actively promotes a slower, more sustainable visitor experience where people stay longer and learn more about Skye’s landscape, culture and history.”

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