… there are 11 properties to rent on Rightmove… and 221 properties to rent on AirBnB
Here’s a short history of AirBnB from the New European:
In the beginning, it all sounded so cosy. In 2007, unemployed and struggling to pay rent in San Francisco, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia hired out air mattresses in their flat to attendees of a conference – a caring, sharing hipster start to the convivial-sounding Airbnb.
Now the company, first billed as a way for millennials to make ends meet and give visitors a unique, community-centric experience, is locked in a battle-royal with European cities upset at a stealth corporate takeover of local properties.
There are a whole host of issues around AirBnB, as clocked up on these news pages over the last months:
COUNCIL TAX AND BUSINESS RATES:
How many AirBnB businesses in East Devon were able to claim business rate relief during the lockdown?
Back in June, George Monbiot was railling against the tax and rates regime which has enabled the likes of AirBnB:
… Covid, Brexit and the growing realisation that you can monetise your extravagance by putting your second home on Airbnb when you’re not using it have triggered a gold rush. Far from seeking to restrain this frenzy, the government has lavished subsidies and tax breaks on second-home owners. If you rent yours out as a “furnished holiday let” for part of the year (it should be “available” for 210 days but needs to be let for only 105), you no longer have to pay council tax, but can register instead as a business ratepayer. Then you apply for 100% small business rates relief, cancelling the entire bill. So while every other kind of housing is taxed, second homes, if you play it right, are tax-free.
THE RIGHTS OF TENANTS:
This week, Devon Live looked at how the current legal situation is helping the likes of AirBnB – as against long-term tenants:
In addition to rising house and rental prices in North Devon, the number of properties available has plummeted, with many being converted into holiday lets, second homes, and AirBnBs.
Residents in Devon… are facing homelessness in the days before Christmas after eviction notice periods were slashed in half last month.
From October 1, Section 21 eviction notice periods were halved from four months to two months, giving residents a short period of time to find a new property in a worsening housing crisis. The decision concluded measures taken in the Coronavirus Act 2020, which extended Section 21 notices during the pandemic. The shortening of S21 notice periods has not been carried out elsewhere in Britain. In Wales, notice periods remain at six months, extended from eight weeks in July 2020. In Scotland, the English- equivalent of Section 21s was abolished altogether in December 2017 and replaced by the PRT, which requires landlords to present grounds for the eviction in front of a tribunal. Under England’s Housing Act 1988, a landlord can issue a Section 21 notice without giving justification or establishing fault of the tenant once their fixed-term contract has ended, leaving renters in the region at risk of eviction.
Although the government is reversing measures made at the height of the pandemic, the pressures placed on residents looking for accommodation in Devon have continued to grow.
Indeed, Devon Live has launched a campaign on the issues:
PRICED OUT DEVON
Are there too many second homes? Are landlords taking advantage of a staycation boom and prioritising AirBnb guests over permanent tenants? Is Devon in the grip of a housing crisis? These are questions we’ll be asking in challenging content under the campaign Priced Out Devon.
AN ECONOMIC LIFELINE:
In August, AirBnB defended its business model:
Airbnb has issued a lengthy statement in response to a recent raft of criticisms about the effects of soaring numbers of short lets. The general statement does not address any one specific criticism, but defends the company’s approach; it says it’s “built on the foundation of helping people afford their homes and making communities stronger. “
Critics have included former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who has started a petition calling for planning law to be changed to stop family homes being turned into second homes and holiday lets; a Tory MP in Devon who wants to declare the Totnes area a “housing emergency” because of the number of Airbnb and other short lets; and Cornwall Council threatening legal action against the owners of former council homes who are allegedly breaking covenants by letting them through Airbnb.
The Airbnb statement claims the majority of people letting out rooms or houses via the platform do so as “an economic lifeline.”
COUNCILS HIT BACK:
Last month, the county council considered a motion to limit the likes of AirBnB:
With the decision being deferred to cabinet:
Devon County Council calls on the Government to:
1. End the tax dodge loop-hole of second home owners switching from Council Tax to Business Rates and then claiming ‘small business’ exemption, so they pay nothing at all.
2. To re-extend the notice period given to tenants to 6 months
3. Maintain the Local Housing Allowances at Covid-levels (plus cost-of-living increases) to support families into homes
and that the County Council will:
1. Work with Devon’s District, City and Borough councils to establish a ‘housing taskforce’ working across the county to tackle the flight to Air BnB and holiday rentals
2.Support the provision of urgently needed rented housing on County owned land
SIDMOUTH, HOUSING TO RENT AND AIRBNB:
Three years ago, the town council was saying “More needs to be done to ensure people are safe when using private holiday lets in Sidmouth, through websites such as AirBnB”:
Today, on the one hand, within a three mile radius available to rent in Sidmouth, there are 11 properties to rent on Rightmove:
On the other, there are 221 properties to rent on AirBnB:
This is a theme the Futures Forum blog looked at for years: