England holiday lets register considered in Westminster debate

UK: The UK Government says that it will consider introducing a holiday lets register in England, amid concerns that the rise in second homes and holiday lets in rural communities is leading to a magnified shortage of affordable housing for locals.

The issue was raised in a Backbench Business Debate in Westminster Hall, led by Liberal Democrat MP [and former leader] Tim Farron and supported by Conservative, SNP, DUP and Plaid Cymru MPs, in which ministers pledged to launch a consultation later this year analysing the effects of holiday let booking platforms on the housing market.

First promised in June 2021, a consultation on a Tourist Accommodation Registration Scheme – designed to compile data on the economic and social benefits and drawbacks of holiday lets – is being mooted, with MPs calling for more help for those being increasingly priced out of the housing market, which it partly attributes to the surge in holiday lets and second home ownership.

However, Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in Cumbria, called on the government to show more urgency with regards to the inquiry as the situation had become “entirely disastrous”.

According to the MP, the popularity of holiday lets had pushed up prices and left a number of towns and villages empty in his constituency for much of the pandemic. In the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, he said that at least one in seven properties were now second homes, while in South Lakeland, there had been a 32 per cent rise in the number of holiday lets in the last 12 months alone.

Despite acknowledging the economic benefits of holiday lets on local areas, property owners and tourists, Farron urged the government to enable local authorities to limit the number of second homes in their community by changing planning laws and pushed for council taxes to be doubled for second homes in areas where affordable housing is least available.

Housing minister Chris Pincher responded by promising that the government would look to consult on the possible introduction of a tourist registration scheme, and increase its “understanding of the evidence and issues that second homes present”.

In Scotland, MSPs are due to debate proposals put forward by the Scottish Government to make licences from councils compulsory for properties being used for short-term lets, a move that industry body, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers [ASSC], has denounced as “onerous” and “ill-considered”.

Through the scheme – which could introduce “possible changes to taxation” – the government wants to establish a minimum safety standard for rentals while ensuring the concerns of neighbouring communities are met and the economic and tourism benefits are effectively taken into account.

Last year, the Scottish Government published a report on short-term lets in which it reinforced its goal to tackle the growth of rentals in tourist areas such as Edinburgh and asked individual authorities to set the necessary requirements for granting a permit.