Majority backing for short-term let controls in Scotland

The number of active Airbnb listings across Scotland tripled to around 32,000 as of May this year.

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Scottish ministers are preparing to crack down on short-term lets such as Airbnbs after a consultation found support for greater regulation.

Research commissioned by the government found a three-fold increase in Scottish properties let for short-term use since 2016, with 32,000 recorded in May.

A majority of those who wrote in to the consultation backed reforms, although they were split on what should be done.

Four hosts with portfolios of more than 100 properties accounted for around 8% of all listings – nearly 2,500 listings in total.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said the Scottish government will “carefully consider the evidence” before setting out its proposals later this year.

He said: “Short-term lets can offer people a flexible and cheaper travel option, and have contributed positively to Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies across the country.

“However, we know that, in certain areas, particularly tourist hot spots, high numbers of short-term lets are causing problems and often making it harder for people to find homes to live in.”

“The responses to our consultation confirm support for new controls over short-term letting of residential properties in these problem areas. We will carefully consider the evidence before setting out our proposals later this year.”

While short-term lets account for only 1.2% of all properties in Scotland, in some areas this proportion is said to be “significantly higher”.

More than 2,700 listings were recorded in Edinburgh, with the city’s Old Town area found to have 812 active Airbnb listings per square kilometre.

The report also said these properties account for 18.6% of all homes on the island of Skye – nearly double the figure suggested by the Chartered Institute of Housing earlier this year.

A Scottish government consultation found a majority of respondents supported regulation for short-term lets in some form – with more than 1,000 responses from local residents, landlords, hosts, and community groups, as well as people who have stayed in short-term lets as guests.

Overall, a majority agreed there should be some form of regulation, although “views were mixed” about whether there should be a licensing or registration scheme.

There was also backing for speedy enforcement of whatever new controls are introduced, although it was noted that a “one size fits all” approach would not be appropriate across Scotland, given half of all lets were found to be concentrated in two councils areas: Edinburgh and Highland.

In response to the latest consultation responses, Green MSP Andy Wightman said it was “time for the Scottish government to make some serious progress on the issue”.

Labour’s Pauline McNeill added that there was a “compelling case” for regulation, saying planning permission should be required for whole properties to be let out on a short-term basis.

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