Speaking to the Built Environment Committee at the House of Lords as part of its inquiry into the sector, Amanda Cupples, general manager for Northern Europe at Airbnb, said the company regularly spoke to local authorities and had heard these concerns.
The committee’s inquiry will consider the impact of short-term lettings on housing markets, in particular their impact on efforts to meet housing demand.
The inquiry will result in a letter to the government which will make recommendations on steps that should be taken to address these issues, including the government’s proposals for a register.
During session, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, chair, said she had spoken with several estate agents and asked what problems exist for those buying a house. She said the estate agents reported that a number of properties were going to people who wanted to let them out.
Merilee Karr, chair of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association (UKSTAA), responded that a large number of people bought properties for buy-to-let, but did not think they were used for short-term lets. She noted that many areas had caps on how many days a property could be let on a short-term basis, and conversely, a minimum number of days a property must be let to be deemed holiday accommodation.
‘A very strong emotional feeling’
Baroness Neville-Rolfe asked the panel if the short-term accommodation sector took properties off the market from first-time buyers and people with less money.
Cupples responded, “There is a very strong emotional feeling that short-term accommodation is a prime contributor to that.
“The reality is, we don’t know very much. There is actually no evidence base that has drawn any link whatsoever between short-term accommodation and housing scarcity.”
She said Airbnb had also asked for a short-term accommodation register so policymakers could have a consistent, robust evidence base to help make decisions about the housing market.
In response to the claim that many short-term accommodation owners had large portfolios, Cupples said eight out of 10 Airbnb hosts had just one accommodation.
Fiona MacConnacher, public affairs manager at Booking.com, said the rise in short-term lets was fuelled by an increase in customer demand.
“Having these alternative forms of accommodation allow for these demands to be met,” she added.
She also noted that short-term lets weren’t just for holidaymakers, but are also used by people who needed a place to stay in between moving, students on internships, and more recently Ukrainian refugees.