Holiday lets face crackdown in England amid fears they are ‘driving people out of their communities’
Short-term holiday lets such as Airbnb properties face a crackdown in England after the UK Government today launched a review aimed at reducing their negative impact on communities there.
England’s Housing minister Stuart Andrew said that there were concerns that the proliferation of Airbnb’s “doesn’t drive residents out of their communities”.
The review launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will look at whether holiday lets drive up housing prices and whether they lead to anti-social behaviour that negatively impacts communities.
The move by the Conservative UK Government comes despite opposition by the Welsh Conservatives to some of the moves to crack down on holiday lets in Wales.
The Welsh Government confirmed last month that they would carry on with plans for tax hikes on holiday lets that do not rent out their properties for more than half the year.
Following a consultation, from April local authorities will be able to set council tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties to 300% from April 2023.
The criteria for self-catering accommodation being liable for business rates instead of council tax will also change at the same time, from 70 to 182 days.
Welsh Conservatives have however opposed the move, with Aberconwy Senedd Member Janet Finch-Saunders accusing the Welsh Government of being “obsessed” with second homes.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport meanwhile acknowledged the “many benefits” brought by such lets in England, including increasing holiday rental options and allowing people to make money from spare rooms and second homes.
However, they added that “the government understands there can be an impact on housing supply and price in these areas and there are fears caused by evidence of a rise in antisocial behaviour including noise, waste and drunken behaviour in local communities”.
Launching thee UK Government review, England’s Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston said: “We’ve seen huge growth in the range of holiday accommodation available over the last few years.
“We want to reap the benefits of the boom in short-term holiday lets while protecting community interests and making sure England has high-quality tourist accommodation.
“While no decisions have been taken, this review will help us work out the options to look at so we can protect our much-loved communities and thriving holiday industry.”
England’s Housing minister Stuart Andrew meanwhile praised Airbnb for boosting tourism across the country, but emphasised the need to ensure “this doesn’t drive residents out of their communities”.
He continued: “We are already taking action to tackle the issue of second and empty homes in some areas by empowering councils to charge up to double the rate of council tax.
“This review will give us a better understanding of how short term lets are affecting housing supply locally to make sure the tourism sector works for both residents and visitors alike.”
Cities including Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris have already introduced more far-reaching crackdowns on Airbnb.
The Welsh Government said that their own crack down on holiday lets, due to be introduced in April next year, would stop second home owners from classifying homes as businesses because they are let out for one fifth of the year.
“As part of the Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru, we are committed to taking immediate action to address the impact of second homes and unaffordable housing in communities across Wales, using the planning, property and taxation systems,” Rebecca Evans said.
“As we continue to progress the package of measures and drawing on the latest evidence base, we will keep under constant review the whole range of levers available to use and how they may be deployed most effectively to meet our policy objectives and avoid any unintended consequences.”
She added that “I recognise the strength of feeling among self-catering operators and have listened to the representations from individual businesses and industry representative bodies.
“There is limited evidence available in relation to some of these considerations and I am grateful to the sector for providing additional information they have gathered from their members.
“This has been taken into account in completing the Explanatory Memorandum and Regulatory Impact Assessment, which makes use of the available evidence. I recognise that the stronger criteria may be challenging for some operators to meet.
“The purpose of the change is to help ensure property owners are making a fair contribution to local communities, for example by increasing their contribution to the local economy through greater letting activity or by paying council tax on their properties.”
Welsh Conservatives have however opposed the move, calling on the Welsh Government to build more houses instead.
“Industry data suggests that Wales needs to build 12,000 homes a year by 2031 but before the pandemic we saw that the Welsh Government could barely manage half of that,” Senedd member Janet Finch-Saunders said.
“Shockingly in 2018-19, we saw the number of properties completed fall to 30.6% below levels seen prior to devolution.
“This failure to deliver on new homes is compounded by the reality that the Welsh Government refuses to listen to the common-sense policy solutions that I have put forward, including the re-introduction of the Right-to-Buy scheme and amendments to planning policy.
“Instead, the Welsh Government has become obsessed with targeting second homeowners and legitimate holiday let businesses.
“However, it is clear that even in this the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru are failing, once again announcing a new scheme without having thought it through. It is totally shocking that six months into this scheme Gwynedd’s Council Leader remains unsure as to what the Welsh Government are even piloting.”
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