Congratulations to John Harris for his excellent article on the reality of Airbnb (Profiteers make a killing on Airbnb – and erode communities, 12, February). The scale and nature of this problem needs to be exposed. Harris is absolutely right to distinguish between local residents letting out a spare room and commercial operations buying into the property market for large returns. In our local residents’ association, the disruption caused by Airbnb visitors is in the top five of problems where action is desperately sought from the council.
There are two points worth adding. Firstly, Edinburgh council acts more like the Edinburgh development corporation than a local authority, promoting tourism with singular disregard for the people who actually live in central Edinburgh 365 days a year. This helps to generate the market in which Airbnb flourishes. It also gives the council a stake in Airbnb accommodation. Secondly, the city loses out on tax revenue from this “non-commercial” sector’s demands on the infrastructure. No one is against tourism, but it should be balanced against the needs of those who live and work in Edinburgh. But then we all know the pressures on council from many directions.
• John Harris sets out possible approaches to the problems caused by the Airbnb monopoly of entire homes in previously residential neighbourhoods, including registration and inspection.
When I started letting an apartment for holidays in the basement of my townhouse in Bath 25 years ago, the procedure required registration with the local authority to advertise in a city guide, and inspection once a year by the tourist authority that set the quality standard. This standard required the property to have sherry glasses, a rolling pin and a cake plate (whatever that is) – long after these items had any relevance for my urban visitors on weekend breaks.
Inevitably, the inspection process was then outsourced (to Group 4) and I endured an annual visit, for which we had to pay, by well-meaning people who knew a great deal less about the tourist industry than I do. I now advertise online, including on Airbnb. I have many worries about Airbnb. The availability of property for residential rental is now dire in Bath. The local authority is aware of the change of use of previously residential rental properties, but prefers to sit on its hands so tourists can flood in. But registration and inspection? No thanks.
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