Housing

Airbnb hosts may need planning permission for short-term lets in new government crackdown

The government has proposed a registration scheme to prevent holiday lets flooding the housing market and driving up prices. But ministers have been urged not to “dither and delay” in acting to help staycation hotspots

Airbnb brings short-term lets and holiday lets to Cornwall

Cornwall may be popular with holidaymakers seeking a staycation but the rise in short-term and holiday lets has pushed out locals and left the area with a homelessness crisis. Image: Rumman Amin / Unsplash

Airbnb hosts may need to seek planning permission to turn their home into a short-term let under a newly announced government proposal.

Ministers have unveiled plans for consultations on planning changes and introducing a registration scheme for short-term let owners. The new crackdown is aimed at helping seaside resorts in England where holiday lets have flooded the housing market and squeezed out affordable housing. Airbnb has welcomed the move.

Last year an investigation by The Big Issue found the number of available holiday lets outnumbered rental homes by 100 to one in some UK staycation hotspots.

Housing secretary Michael Gove said: “Tourism brings many benefits to our economy but in too many communities we have seen local people pushed out of cherished towns, cities and villages by huge numbers of short-term lets.

“I’m determined that we ensure that more people have access to local homes at affordable prices, and that we prioritise families desperate to rent or buy a home of their own close to where they work.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ consultation will consider whether short-term let owners should have the right to let out their home for a specific number of nights in a calendar year without requiring planning permission.

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A second consultation from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will consider whether a new registration scheme will be introduced.

The scheme aims to find out how many short-term lets are operating in England and where they are based to understand the impact they are having on communities.

Ministers plan to introduce the register of short-term lets through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament. 

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said the government currently has an “incomplete picture of the size and scale of the short-term lets market” and “wants to get the balance right” when it comes to weighing up tourism versus affordable homes for local residents.

Airbnb has welcomed the call for a register but the industry giant said the vast majority of UK hosts share one home while almost four in 10 hosts said the earnings from letting out their home has helped with the cost of living crisis.

Theo Lomas, Airbnb’s head of public policy and government relations in Northern Europe said: “We want to work with the government to ensure that any planning interventions are carefully considered, evidence-based, and strike a balance between protecting housing and supporting everyday families who let their space to help afford their home and keep pace with rising living costs.”

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Jayne Kirkham, a Labour councillor in Truro and Falmouth, told The Big Issue government must speed up the action it is taking because leaders in Cornwall “don’t know which way to turn” to tackle the problem.

In recent weeks, Cornwall Council has asked residents to offer up spare rooms to house people experiencing homelessness and greenlit new homeless pod accommodation to deal with the housing pressures in the area.

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“The government talks about consultations but they need to just do it. We know it needs doing,” said Kirkham.

“Westminster dither and delay and they’re so slow and because Cornwall doesn’t have devolution, we can’t do it. So we’re getting incredibly frustrated down here. Even the council, which is a majority Conservative council at the moment, wants to do things about second homes. We’re calling on the government to triple council tax on second homes and certainly nothing’s happening quickly enough.

“It will be good to see just how many short-term holiday lets we’ve got and do some work on the impact they are actually having in real terms on our housing market because the crisis just seems to be getting worse. Every week I’m still getting people – and it’s mainly families with kids now – who have been made homeless under Section 21 evictions because their private landlords are converting to short-term holiday lets.”

However, Generation Rent warned the new proposals may not ease the pressure on the rental market if existing holiday-let owners get automatic planning permission.

“The planning proposals might help ensure that future homes built in holiday hotspots are lived in by locals, but compared with the rapid loss of homes in recent years, it will take a long time to restore balance to the rental market, and people will continue to be priced out of the areas they grew up in,” said Dan Wilson Craw, acting director of Generation Rent.

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