Homes First: Wightman Launches Campaign To Control Short Term Lets

Andy Wightman MSP, Housing spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, today (7 Nov) launched his “Homes First” campaign to control the rapid and unregulated growth of short-term lets, where owners of residential properties offer them as holiday accommodation.

A campaign website, https://greens.scot/homesfirst/has been set up to enable people affected to share their experiences, with a new briefing paper from Mr Wightman warning that the rapid rise of this form of letting is depriving communities of much-needed housing and undermining the right to housing enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In Edinburgh alone, latest figures (September 2017) show that there are at least 5,474 whole properties available for short term let.

Testimonies collected by the “Homes First” campaign include…

* One constituent who has decided to sell up and leave his property due to increased feelings of isolation and frustration brought on by short term lets. He is the last permanent resident in his stairwell.
* An elderly couple feeling increasingly insecure in their own home as their neighbouring flat brings in a reported 120 visitors a year as a short term let.
* A young couple and their small child being threatened late at night by drunken occupants of a short term let following a noise complaint.
* A student failing a secondary school exam because of the stress and anxiety caused the night before by occupants in a neighbouring short term let.
* Consortiums of investors out-bidding families for residential property and, in turn, converting these into short term lets whilst flouting planning permission and the title deeds, which prohibit a change of use for business purposes.

Andy’s latest briefing paper highlights the fact that during 2016 the City of Edinburgh Council received complaints of antisocial behaviour relating to 41 short-term let properties but it took officials on average almost a year to investigate these concerns.

The paper looks at options for regulation and legislation:

* Scottish Ministers could create a new Use Class Order that requires planning permission to operate short-term lets in residential property, giving local councils the power to control the situation.
*The current Landlord Registration scheme could be extended so that owners of short-term let properties have to pass the “fit and proper person” test that regular landlords face.

Andy Wightman MSP said:

“The rapid rise in short-term lets is starting to undermine the basic human right to housing. Since I first raised this issue in Parliament in January of this year, I have been inundated by people throughout Scotland who have serious concerns about the impact on their communities.

“There is now a staggering number of residential homes that are now effectively being markets as hotels with no planning permission, no safety regulations and no regard to families living in close proximity to them. This adds further pressure on local housing markets, and depriving local councils of income from the non-domestic rates businesses are supposed to pay. These are vital funds that could pay for local community facilities and services including schools, libraries and social care. The current system is fundamentally flawed.

“Undoubtedly short term lets are here to stay but with effective legislation in place, communities can co-exist with this form of letting to ensure that more homes are not lost to greedy speculators. We cannot allow this phenomenon to go unchecked and I am keen to garner support for Homes First from residents in urban and rural communities who have been directly affected.

“Without effective controls in place, it’s clear to me that we will change the characteristics of our neighbourhoods for good and that is a worrying prospect.”