The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) has unveiled alarming new figures showing only a small number of professional self-catering businesses have seen their licensing application approved by City of Edinburgh Council.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request was submitted by the leading trade organisation to ascertain the number of licenses granted, declined or pending approval, as well as the total fees collected. The figures broke down the applications by STL type – homesharing, homeletting and secondary letting – with the latter typically being full-time professional businesses.
The FOI shows how wildly removed official estimates are from the reality on the ground. While Edinburgh Council repeatedly stated that there are 12,000 short-term lets in the city, there have only been 3,573 STL applications. The Council has generated approximately £2.6m from the non-refundable licensing fees.
Around half of these applications (1828) were secondary lets. Incredibly, just 36 of these properties have had their application approved, only 22 of which operate all year round.
One issue which may have led to fewer applications than anticipated is the Council’s draconian planning policy which places an additional hurdle on operators. With 98.5% of planning applications rejected by officials and the Planning Local Review Body, this prevents the opportunity to apply for a licence.
Short-term lets have often been used as a scapegoat for wider housing challenges. With just 1,181 self-catering businesses in Edinburgh on non-domestic rates, compared to 1,201 in 2010, it should be noted that there are over 240,000 dwellings in Edinburgh, over 9,200 of which are empty homes.
Edinburgh Council recently declared a ‘housing emergency’ but with short-term lets representing just a tiny percentage of total housing stock, it is clear more holistic solutions are required to solving housing challenges in the city than the often narrow focus on STLs.
Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive of the ASSC, commented:
“Short-term lets should never have been simplistically presented as a panacea for housing shortages in Edinburgh or elsewhere. Licensing or planning policy won’t result in glut of affordable homes to buy or rent and anyone suggesting otherwise is raising false hopes.
There are three times as many empty homes as short-term lets in Edinburgh but the latter have always been used as a convenient scapegoat despite substantially benefiting the local economy and helping the Festivals be the undoubted success they are.
We have to build our way out of this crisis, as well tackling the increasing number of empty homes, as opposed to shutting down indigenous self-catering businesses which will only decimate local livelihoods and harm our tourist economy.”