Nicola Sturgeon’s government has been accused of undermining the success of Edinburgh’s festivals by approving plans to force the city’s Airbnb owners to apply for building permits.
The SNP administration has approved proposals submitted by the local council for the whole city to become Scotland’s first short-term rental control area.
It means that homeowners who rent a residential property that is not their primary residence for a short time will need to apply for the “change of use” permit during the planning process.
The move aims to crack down on Airbnb-style housing amid concerns that too many homes are being lost to the “vacation market.”
About a third of all short-term rentals in Scotland are in Edinburgh and council executives want to introduce a city-wide limit on the number of homes that have been given planning permission under the new scheme.
Timing of the ‘ironic’ announcement
But industry groups attacked the “absolutely devastating” change and warned that it would make it harder for artists and visitors to Edinburgh’s summer festivals to find accommodation.
The city’s population is expected to double to nearly one million this month as tourists return to the Edinburgh Fringe, the International Festival and the International Book Festival for the first time since the pandemic.
While the change won’t be rolled out until next month after festivals end in 2022, it is feared that it could lead to a severe salt shortage next August.
Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said: “Self-catering establishments have been a long-standing presence in Edinburgh for decades, providing a vital source of alternative accommodation during major events.
“It is therefore somewhat ironic that this news arrives in the same week that many artists and festival visitors will arrive in the city.”
The latest crackdown comes after SNP ministers introduced a new licensing system for short-term rental owners. New operators will have until October 1st to obtain a license, while existing operators will have until April 1st next year.
Shona Robison, SNP Housing Secretary, said: “I recognize the important role that the short term plays as a source of flexible and responsive accommodation for tourists and workers, which brings many benefits to guests, visitors and our economy.
“However, we know that in some areas, particularly in tourist hotspots, high rental rates can cause problems for neighbors and make it more difficult for people to find a home to live in.”
Cammy Day, the leader of the city council, said: “We will now progress in implementing the changes and the next step should be to consider whether we can apply a limit to the numbers as well.”
An Airbnb spokesperson said: “The vast majority of hosts in Scotland are regular people who occasionally rent a home to increase their income.
“Nearly four out of 10 say that the extra earnings help them support the rising cost of living. We want to be a good partner for the authorities and collaborate on the rules that support local families and protect local communities.”