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Prioritising communities? England’s homeowners could face stricter regulations on holiday lets

Holiday Lets

As holiday lets continue to spring up across England’s tourist hotspots, courtesy of Airbnb and other rental companies, the government has unveiled plans today which could require homeowners to qualify for planning permission prior to converting properties into short-term stays. This permission would be granted by councils so will provide local authorities more power over housing stock, if they choose to implement planning controls.

A consultation on this plan is underway, and should it be adopted, will be administered in target areas such as Cornwall, the Lake District and Norfolk. It will introduced as part of  the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which aims to equal out the playing field by creating opportunities across the UK to increase social mobility.

The aim of this plan is to prioritise communities and reduce housing issues – based on Government research, short-term listings in Cornwall have increased up to six-times since 2018. Moreover, the BBC found that holiday rentals across England have increased 40% since 2020.

Levelling Up vs Holiday Lets

Within the context of the 12 ‘Levelling Up’ missions, Housing Secretary Michael Gove asserted that despite economic benefits of tourism, an excessive number of people are being “pushed out of cherished towns, cities and villages”. In line with Gove’s statement earlier this month that the “UK housing model is broken”, this initiative aims to tackle the lack of affordable housing by prioritising local people and families.

Similar, the Culture Secretary, Lucy Frazer, has also opened a consultation on a potential registration scheme for short-term lets, which she argues will provide the data needed to “assess the position and enable us to address the concerns communities face”. Airbnb welcomes the scheme but contends that a balance is needed between “protecting housing and supporting everyday families who let their space to help afford their home and keep pace with rising living costs”.

What do other MPs think?

Steve Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay has been one of the leading voices calling for change in short-term rental sector. Welcoming the news, he stated “I hope to see these proposals become reality as soon as possible.”

However, former Conservative Housing Secretary, Simon Clarke, criticised the plan on Twitter – asserting that the Government needs to focus on building more homes, he regarded limits on holiday lets as “anti-business”.

From the other side of the Commons, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner contended that renting and mortgage costs are restricting those from getting onto the property ladder, and that tackling these should be a priority. Under a Labour Government, she claims that more homes, including social homes will be built.

Final Thought

For local communities in tourist areas, there are concerns over the advantages tourism provides. Outside of the summer months, it appears that many of these homes remain empty. Hence, within the context of ‘Levelling Up’, this plan could potentially have huge benefits for those who reside in seaside towns and other localities by placing power back in their hands, which for so long been held by landlords and big businesses.

However, the plan has weaknesses – even if implemented, allowing authorities to decide whether to implement short-stay rental regulations calls into question how much positive change will be brought about in reality. Councils in coastal and rural areas that oppose Gove’s plan will therefore not administer these rules on holiday lets. As is often the case, the Conservatives fail to legally ingrain regulations aimed at improving the lives of working-class people, in this case leaving the decision to local councils.

Moreover, as Angela Rayner asserted, the big picture is that this will be a limited intervention in the housing market currently beset with extortionate renting and mortgage costs –soaring inflation, living costs are increasingly pushing individuals and families into poverty.

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