How short term lets are impacting our communities

Cllr Kate Campbell, Housing and Economy and Convener, writes about the impact short terms lets are having on the city in today's Evening News.

Short term lets have fundamentally changed parts of the city. The balance between residential and holiday accommodation has tilted to such an extreme in some areas that we have some stairs where there are only one or two residential properties.

For those left behind their lives have completely altered. Gone are neighbourly relationships. Taking in parcels, borrowing sugar. Instead there are key-safes floor to ceiling at the front door. Endless trails of people they do not know dragging suitcases noisily up and down stairs. And often at unsociable hours. 

The impact from ‘party flats’ can be horrendous for those that have to get up in the morning and go to work. People feel unsafe in a building full of strangers. Or on cold Tuesday evenings in November they rattle around in an 18 flat tenement block with only their heating on.

But by far one of the most damaging aspects is the effect on housing supply and rents. Particularly in high demand areas like the city centre and Leith. We simply cannot allow our communities to be hollowed out in this way.

At the council we have a Short Term Lets Working Group. It is cross-party and from the administration’s side among others we have myself, the Housing and Economy Convener and Cathy Fullerton the Regulatory Convener on it. We are taking this very seriously.

We have had people come to speak to us from the Living Rent Campaign through to a tax expert and we’ve discussed all aspects of the industry. We’re not concerned about residents letting out a room to make a bit of extra money. We also think it’s fine for people to let out their home for a few weeks over the summer. It’s helpful to have additional accommodation over the festival in particular where the properties remain residential the rest of the year.

What we are concerned about is residential flats being turned into full time holiday lets. We already have a shortage of homes in Edinburgh. We can’t afford to lose any more.

We already have some powers that we can use around planning, anti-social behaviour and even waste collection. But, especially for planning, each case has to be determined on its own merits so it can take time for investigations to be carried out.

To really get to grips with the industry we think we will need a proper licensing regime. This would allow us to cap numbers in specific areas, and across the city as a whole. It would mean we could apply a fit and proper test for landlords and make sure they act responsibly. And it would mean we could apply proper health and safety standards making it safer for visitors.

The report that has come out today sets all of this out. It details what powers we already have and how we’ll use them. This includes building a dedicated team to focus on enforcement. And it starts a dialogue with the Scottish Government on approaches to licensing. Positively, the Scottish Government had already commissioned a report. Their response talks about working with us, and other local authorities, to consider piloting regulatory solutions. This is exactly what we were hoping for.

The city needs to achieve a balance between welcoming visitors, tourism sustains 35,000 jobs after all, and making sure that we are protecting homes and communities. Getting this right is an absolute priority. We know the impact holiday lets are having on residents and we are determined to find a solution that works for everyone.




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