I was recently invited to talk at an event held by the Calder Valley Land Trust, a Public Meeting to discuss the impact of Air B & B on local housing. Unfortnately I could not attend the event in person, but I did put some thoughts down in writing to be voiced at the event. Some commentators mistakenly believed local estate agents wouldn't want to get involved in such a discussion, for fear of upsetting potential clients. I am more than happy to share my opinions and believe this is a very important issue that should be discussed openly. For those that are not aware of the Calder Valley Land Trust, they are a member-led community benefit society, with charitable status, which has been established to help address and meet housing needs in our part of Calderdale. Do check their website, get involved if you can and watch out for future events.
Impact of Air B & B on local housing.
Such a contentious issue! Today, this largely unregulated industry is far removed from the original, slightly bohemian, Californian concept. Most Air B & B bookings are not simply spare rooms in someone’s home, where you can stay in for a nominal rent whilst experiencing real life in new towns and cities. Today most Air B & B properties are entire homes in their own right and there in lays the problem.
The UK simply doesn’t have enough homes to meet the demands of the population, in particular affordable housing. Young people are particularly hard hit by this and forced to stay at home with parents way beyond the usual “fledgling” years. Home ownership has decreased this past 20 years and once again, in particular for the young. (Peaking at 71% in 2003 and now under 65%). At the same time, council housing stocks have been sold off and new build just hasn’t kept pace with demand. This has happened at a time when the population has grown (approx. 16% increase from 2000) and more and more people are choosing to live alone.
These problems are then exacerbated in popular areas such as Hebden Bridge and increasingly so Todmorden. Towns such as ours have a continual influx of people wanting to move from neighbouring (commutable) cities, for a better quality of life and more affordable housing and also from the second home market and people looking to buy holiday properties.
An Air B & B makes good business sense in a tourist hot spot – with much higher yields than PRS and far less regulation. The lockdown caused a sudden influx of buyers looking to acquire holiday accommodation in the UK as more and more people were having to stay home for their holidays.
The result of this demand for property unfortunately means local people are often priced out of the market. Local salaries cannot match the city commuters earnings so homes for rent and for sale are more and more beyond the reach of local people. Do we have a problem locally – yes, undeniably so in my experience.
Air B & B buyers are often chain free cash buyers, or require little finance and so are deemed a safe bet for many wanting to sell. Sometimes sellers will express a preference for wanting to sell to local people, but at what price – if you have a cash offer £5000 higher, £10,0000 higher would you say no?
It has also been known for buyers not always to tell the truth, they may say they are buying for themselves and then change their minds at a later date – there is no way to hold buyers to account regards their intentions.
Some leasehold developments (principally apartments) do have and are increasing having clauses in the leases that restrict commercial activity and Air B & B letting. These are often when local residents form part of the management companies and they try to restrict this activity to maintain a more community minded approach, restrict “party houses” or the upheaval sometimes caused by an ever changing flow of occupants. However, these options are only available with Leasehold properties.
There are of course positives to Air B & B – it opens up more holiday business opportunities, it beings visitors to our shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. All this activity feeds the local economy and increases employment. However, it can be very seasonal and you could argue that it gives with one hand and takes away with the other – as Guesthouses, Hotels and more traditional B & B accommodation suffers at the expense of the unregulated Air B & B industry. These traditional types of holiday accommodation are regulated, do pay taxes and give employment.
Towns that do not have the tourist trade seldom suffer with Air B & B issues, even though they may still suffer with a shortage of housing. So the problem is not Air B & B in itself, it is simply made worse by it and breeds resentment.
Personally I feel everyone has the right to a home and to deny that is akin to deny food, water or air. There has to be some form of regulation to protect and provide for the general public, in my opinion. Therefore, Air B & B properties should be licensed and regulated and taxed more effectively. If the numbers were monitored and restricted where necessary if would help. It seems fair to me that owners providing holiday accommodation, whether it is a Hotel of self-catering unit, should have a level playing field in terms of regulation. Business rates should apply instead of owners paying council tax, as with any other business property. Also, any income generated from fair tax and regulation could help go towards providing affordable homes for local people. I feel it is all about a balance.