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
Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Captcha Image

Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
13 September 2019
Tommys Blog
Media
At two minutes past ten on Wednesday morning I was sitting in court number one just behind St Giles on the Royal Mile. A minute later Lord Carloway announced the unanimous decision by the appeal court judges that the British government had acted illegally in proroguing parliament.  There was an audible intake of breath as the decision hit.I was pleased to join my colleague Joanna Cherry QC, and ot...
Tommy Sheppard
09 September 2019
Tommys Blog
My work for you in Westminster
I've had a few emails recently from people who are asking about the SNP position regarding a general election.While I recorded some video updates last week, one of the limitations of social media is that it mitigates against context and nuance, so it is not always an adequate medium to communicate one's ideas. Also, while the instant nature of social media is useful it is limited in a situation li...
Tommy Sheppard
03 September 2019
Tommys Blog
Media
Under the new Prime Minister, the UK’s headlong dash towards the No Deal Brexit cliff edge has accelerated. Johnson makes demands he knows the European Union cannot accept. He demands the removal of the Backstop. The Backstop was designed to protect the Good Friday Agreement and thus peace in Northern Ireland and is, let’s not forget, an international treaty which is overwhelmingly supported by th...
Tommy Sheppard
26 August 2019
Tommys Blog
Media
And so the parliamentary summer recess draws to a close. This week Westminster opposition parties meet to plan their autumn attack. The week after, battle commences in the palace by the Thames. The parliament and the premier, each with a death wish on each other. The question: who will get the killer blow in first?What is clear is that a General Election is coming. Either the government will colla...
Tommy Sheppard
19 August 2019
Tommys Blog
Media
Dearie me, what’s going on in the People’s Party? First, shadow chancellor John McDonnell states that a Westminster Labour government wouldn’t block a request from the Scottish Parliament to hold an independence referendum. He says it twice just in case anyone thinks the first time was a mistake. And this week Jeremy Corbyn says it again to be sure.Now, in one sense, it’s an unremarkable statement...