Tommy Sheppard

MP for Edinburgh East

Edinburgh needs to get a grip on its Airbnb craze

AirBNB

Ever rented out a room in your flat? I have. Many people in Edinburgh have too. The city sees a massive influx during August and without residents offering up spare rooms – or indeed their whole home – there’d simply be nowhere for the festival to live.

But the festival has always been an exception. Worth the inconvenience and congestion because we get the biggest arts event in the world and it’s good for the city’s economy and reputation.

In the last few years, short-term renting has spread all year round with the growth of websites like Airbnb. There’s more than 7,000 short-term lets available in Edinburgh on Airbnb alone – most in the city centre, Leith and the Southside. That’s the equivalent of 35 massive 200-bedroom hotels. It’s big business – and getting bigger.

So, what’s the problem? For starters, there’s no regulation of these properties. Not only can visitors be ripped off, no health and safety checks mean many are accidents waiting to happen. There’s also no-one to police how the flat is used and prevent partying into the wee small hours, annoying the hell out of neighbours who have no comeback because the stag party will be gone the next day. If you’re just letting out a room in your home, you have some oversight of your guests’ behaviour – not when you’re an absentee landlord. 

More than half of the city centre short-term lets on Airbnb are by what the site calls “multi-listing hosts”. That means they’re letting a bunch of properties – in effect, there are running a hotel spread over many properties.

That’s unfair to actual hotels that are paying their rates and complying with a whole range of laws and policies designed to make life bearable for others. But the greatest problem is the effect this new form of commercial renting is having on our communities and the character of our historic city. There are tenements in the Grassmarket and areas like it where only one tenant or owner is left in the entire stair. At every other door is the dreaded grey metal box holding the keys to the flat for the next transient visitor.

Communities are under attack as properties are sold off to become second homes for the wealthy or short-term lets for groups on a budget. Try getting to know your neighbours when they are never there or change every three days. I don’t live in the Old Town or city centre, but I am concerned about what’s happening there. They should be places where real people live – not just a playground for visitors.

For that is what makes them interesting places to visit. Authenticity is all the rage in the tourist industry – people don’t want to go to places that seem artificial or an ersatz reconstruction of what used to be. They want the real thing. We need to get a grip on this and I’m glad to see public authorities are beginning to act. Earlier this year the city council called for properties rented out for more than 90 days to be re-classified as commercial businesses. It would mean residents have somewhere to complain to apart from the internet and that high-stress areas could be treated differently.

In the same way you can have too many pubs in an area, you can have too many Airbnbs. Short-term commercial lets are now being regulated throughout the world in tourist hotspots like Paris and Amsterdam. It’s time for Scotland to catch up and I’m pleased to see this is on our government’s agenda. 

Column written for the Edinburgh Evening News - Thursday 7th December 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill Update - 11th December
Scottish Office Questions

Related Posts

 

Comments 1

Guest - doug o 'malley on Tuesday, 19 December 2017 18:52

surely airb nb is a breakthrough in individual choice and so successful because it is so deregulated . i hear this huge compensation pot for damaged websites will give loads of money to each airb&b page

surely airb nb is a breakthrough in individual choice and so successful because it is so deregulated . i hear this huge compensation pot for damaged websites will give loads of money to each airb&b page
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Monday, 22 January 2018

Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
18 January 2018
Tommy's Blog
My work for you in Westminster
This week Parliament was back debating the EU Withdrawal Bill as it entered the Report stage in the House of Commons. Before I update you on those debates, I want to let you know about a report the Scottish Government have published.On Monday the Scottish Government released its second paper on the potential implications of Brexit on Scotland and the options available to us.  Scotland’s Place in E...
Tommy Sheppard
14 December 2017
Tommy's Blog
Well we finally have it. The coalition were defeated in the House of Commons last night. Despite their attempts to cajole and bully their backbenchers, 11 Tories rebelled and Amendment 7 passed by just 4 votes.  And while Ministers are now jumping to say that it isn’t significant, that it’s only one vote and that Brexit is on track their faces told a very different story in the Chamber.This is imp...
Tommy Sheppard
11 December 2017
Tommy's Blog
It’s difficult to know where to start on last week’s Brexit developments. On Monday the Prime Minister was left scrabbling around after the DUP flexed their muscles and refused to agree the deal with the EU that would enable to them to move on to Phase 2 of negotiations.By the end of the week the deal was done and a joint statement was issued from the UK Government and negotiators from the Europea...
Tommy Sheppard
30 November 2017
My work for you in Edinburgh East
Tommy's Blog

I used my Evening News column this month to talk about fireworks following the extreme antisocial behaviour on bonfire night. I've also written to the Minister asking for the UK Government to toughen up licensing laws. And if they aren't willing to do that, devolve power over fireworks to the Scottish Parliament so they can act. Read the full article here.

 

Tommy Sheppard
30 November 2017
Tommy's Blog
My work for you in Westminster
The EU Withdrawal Bill entered its committee stage this month in the House of Commons.  As it is a constitutional bill it is considered by a committee of the whole house – in other words all MPs consider it in the main chamber. While hundreds of amendments were tabled, only a few are selected for a vote each day. There will be eight days of debate in total, three of which took place in November. O...