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Short-Term Letting and the Housing Crisis

Short-Term Letting and the Housing Crisis

In recent times, the self-catering and short-term letting sector has been used as a convenient scapegoat for longstanding failures in housing policy. However, the challenges facing Scotland are far more multifaceted than the existence and growth of short-term and holiday lets alone.

There have been concerns raised over the impact of increasing tourism and the growth of short-term lets on the housing market, particularly on some communities within City of Edinburgh Council and Highland Council areas. In response, the Scottish Government has announced proposals to regulate short-term lets, including the introduction of a licensing regime.

In taking forward measures to regulate the sector, the ASSC argue that any policies must be based on accurate, reliable and empirical data given the importance of tourism to the Scottish economy. That has always guided our approach.

In February 2020, the ASSC launched a paper: Short-Term Letting and the Housing Crisis, which builds on our commitment to ensure that housing challenges are viewed in a balanced and holistic context. Our paper highlights the following:

  • The number of self-catering units registered on the Business Rates Roll compared to those on the Council Tax Register in two key areas, or indeed ‘hot spots’: Edinburgh and Skye.
  • Data from Airbnb, the industry leader in terms of accommodation platforms in Scotland, who have provided background on their number of listings.
  • Finally, information on the number of second and empty homes in Scotland.

As the leading trade association for the traditional holiday and short-term let sector, the ASSC values the opportunity to engage in holistic and evidence-based discussions about housing in Scotland.

The ASSC supports sustainable tourism and the managed growth of the short-term letting sector in Scotland. Short term rentals are not new and have a long history in Scotland but recent political and media scrutiny has been almost exclusively negative in tone and does not provide an accurate picture of our sector and the role it plays in the tourist economy.

As our research has demonstrated, there are almost five times as many empty homes than self-catering units across Scotland and Airbnb represents only 1% of the housing stock in Scotland. There is a lack of quantitative evidence demonstrating that short-term lets are a significant or primary driver of increased rents, are affecting housing supply, or are pushing up house prices. When housing demand and the level of empty housing is set against the number of self-catering units, it suggests self-catering activity is not of a scale sufficient to affect housing supply issues in Scotland.

Overall, the ASSC maintains that more needs to be done to address the problem of empty homes in Scotland when policymakers focus on tackling Scotland’s housing challenges. Ultimately, building too few homes remains the core cause of Scotland’s housing problems, not the holiday let sector.

Read the full paper: Short Term Letting and the Housing Crisis

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