The damage that Airbnb-style lets is doing to our communities is becoming clearer. Last week, the Guardian revealed that in parts of London, Edinburgh, Devon and the Lake District, one in every four homes is listed as a holiday let.
As we told them, this is depriving communities of much needed homes.
Airbnb originally set up to help people make a bit more money off their homes, with a spare room, or when they were away. But there’s nothing stopping investors buying up homes and listing them all year round on Airbnb, Booking.com and the various other sites that have emerged in recent years. That’s denying homes to local people who need one, pushing up rents and making the housing crisis worse.
We even hear of tenants being evicted so their landlord can make greater returns. We and thousands of Londoners were outraged last year when Hostmaker plastered adverts throughout the London Underground encouraging landlords to ditch long term tenants. Hostmaker took their distasteful adverts down and our campaign convinced TfL to change their advertising rules.
But this isn’t enough. The rise of online platforms is taking homes out of the market in other major cities throughout North America and Europe – it’s a new form of business that existing regulations and taxes have been unable to respond to.
Anyone making money out of property has a responsibility to play by the rules, and it’s the government’s role to balance the needs of the tourist economy and need for long term homes. The government needs to step in and make sure anyone advertising short term lets online meets the same requirements as other providers of holiday accommodation. And if people are going to be investing in property, the tax system needs to make long term lets their obvious choice.
Unlike the rest of the UK, London already has restrictions on holiday lets: you need planning permission to advertise your property for more than 90 days in a year. But councils just don’t have the funds needed to police this properly. Although Inside Airbnb collects data on the scale of the holiday let industry (which led to the front page story), councils need access to this data so they can tackle the landlords who are breaking the rules.
That’s why we’re calling on the candidates for Mayor of London to demand a law that requires holiday let companies to share their data with local councils. That way councils can do their jobs, and faced with prosecution landlords will make their properties available to long term tenants again.
With Hostmaker, we showed what we can do when renters get organised – will you sign the petition and take us closer to a fairer rental market?