SNP to fast track short-term let control areas in Scotland

UK: The SNP has announced its intent to fast-track the introduction of short-term let control areas in Scotland before the next set of Hollyrood elections.

Lawmakers have been pushing for expedited measures since a study was published claiming only one in 477 short-term lets in the city of Edinburgh had proper permits.

The report, authored by advocacy group Homes First and sponsored by Andy Wightman MSP, claimed that it unveiled a “staggering pattern of unlawful activity” in the city. It used a combination of scraped data from booking.com and Airbnb, as well as local testimonies.

Edinburgh has been cited previously as one of the places with the largest proportion of short-term lets in the UK. According to recent estimates, various home-sharing platforms advertise over 7000 homes in Edinburgh, primarily in the city’s centre.

This has drawn criticism from residents and lawmakers who claim short-term lets harm housing stock in the city. Notable among those voices is author Alexander McCall, who spoke against overtourism, claiming it harmed residents and city character.

Neil Gardiner, Edinburgh planning convener, told The Times: “We’re very clear that we want to protect residential amenity and to ensure that properties are returned to being people’s homes. We’re hoping to have draft regulations from the Scottish government on short-term let control areas later this year and expect them to come into effect at some point next year.”

Hosts and operators have responded to criticism by promoting the positive impact its business has had. The ASSC replied to the survey by claiming one in three of its city properties was used to house NHS workers during lockdown.

In January, the SNP announced a shift in Scottish law to provide powers to regulate short-term lets to local authorities. Local councillors have announced their intent to use new powers to ban short-term lets in tenement flats with shared stairs.

Scottish Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We aim to lay the regulations giving local authorities powers to license short-term lets and introduce control areas in December so they can be in force by spring 2021.”