Edinburgh Airbnb boom fuelled by investors, new research shows

Written by Jenni Davidson on 29 December 2017 in News

Green MSP Andy Wightman calls for more regulation of ‘potentially lucrative’ short-term rental businesses

Edinburgh Festival fireworks - Image credit: Michal Ziembicki via Flickr

A boom in short-term lets in Edinburgh is being fuelled by investors running “potentially lucrative” businesses, new research has found.

This includes one Airbnb host, who was found to be renting out 80 properties in the capital through the site.

The research by Alasdair Rae of the University of Sheffield found that 9,638 properties were listed for short-term let in Edinburgh on the Airbnb website in September 2017, an increase of 54 per cent in just over a year from 6,272 in July 2016.

Of those 9,638 listings, 5,474, or 56.8 per cent, were for whole properties, while 4,126 were for a private room and just 38 for a shared room.

The analysis, which was based on figures from Inside Airbnb, suggested that 36 landlords are running what could be considered to be lettings businesses renting out multiple whole properties.

In the report, Rae said: “The evidence suggests that much of the sector is unreported and, far from being a way to make a few extra pounds, many ‘gig economy’ hosts are running potentially lucrative lettings businesses.”

The research found that one host in Edinburgh had 80 listings, seven hosts had more than 20 and 28 hosts had ten or more listings.

The city centre and Leith Walk were particularly popular for short-term rentals, with 2,114 and 1,404 properties respectively listed on Airbnb in September 2017.

The concern is that homes may be taken out of housing stock to be made available for short-term lets and some cities, including Amsterdam, Berlin and Barcelona, are now regulating short-term lets.

Researchers at McGill University who have looked at the impact of short-term lets in Canada recommended they should be regulated on the basis of one person, one let and no full time, entire home rentals, with rental sites responsible for checking compliance.

In the wake of the research, Green MSP for Lothian Andy Wightman is renewing calls for councils to be given powers to regulate short-term lets, which are not currently controlled in Scotland in the way long-term lets are.

Wightman, the party’s housing spokesperson, said: “We already know about the scale of short-term letting throughout the city as well as the misery it has brought many residents who now find themselves living next door to a de facto hotel.

“What’s alarming about the findings of this new piece of research is that the housing market in Edinburgh is rapidly shifting to being led by the demands of investors rather than residents who wish to rent or buy properties.

“While it may be lucrative in the short term, the long-term impacts mean that potential homes are being informally turned into businesses and being removed from the housing stock.

“This disruption to the housing market must end and this report is further proof that we need to give councils new powers to plan and regulate the use of residential property for short term lets.”

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