Government to bring forward Airbnb planning reforms

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The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove has recently confirmed in Parliament that the Government will bring forward new planning reform to manage the way in which residential dwellings can be used for Airbnb’s and other associated short-term holiday rentals.

The response came in light of concerns raised by Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron who stated in the House of Commons earlier this week that it was creating “a big problem” in his Cumbrian constituency, further citing “the collapse of the long-term private rented sector into Airbnb” and the associated issues this is bringing to the local economy and the wider community. Other parts of the country, particularly those associated with seasonal tourism, are also known to be subject to similar issues to those identified in Cumbria.

Tim Farron asked Housing Secretary Michael Gove “Could he give me some assurance of when this government will change planning law to allow communities such as mine to control our housing stock, so that there are enough homes affordable and available for local families and local workers?”

“Of course, we want to have a labour market that works, and of course we want to have a tourism sector that works,” Mr Gove replied.

“But there is a problem in the private rented sector, particularly in beautiful parts of our country like those which he represents, where we do have homes which are turned into Airbnb’s and into holiday lets in a way that actually impedes the capacity of young workers to find a place where they can stay in the locale that they love and contribute to the economy of which they wish to be part.”

“We will be bringing forward some planning changes to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which are intended to ensure that we have restrictions over the way that homes can be turned into Airbnb’s,” he added.

It is typically accepted that an individual can let out a property for short periods of time on platforms such as Airbnb, however Firstplan has seen inconsistent interpretations across the UK with regard to properties used as short term lettings, holiday rentals or party homes. This pattern of use can fall outside of the traditional Class C3 use, and may require planning permission.

It will be interesting to see if the Government seeks to adopt a clear classification for permanent Airbnb and holiday rental properties, to provide property owners with more certainty.

Under current regulations, Airbnb are required to occupy a 90-Day Rule whereby in Greater London, with The Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1973 implementing a London-specific rule which restricts short-term renting of residential properties for more than 90 days in a calendar year. In accordance with the Deregulation Act 2015, homeowners can now rent out their properties (in London) on a short-term basis for up to 90 nights annually without requiring planning consent from the local authority. In the rest of England the 90-day threshold has not been applied which therefore gives home owners greater scope to rent out their property on a short term basis.

An amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill has been tabled by Lord Foster which would enable neighbourhood plans to include policies relating to the proportion of dwellings that may be second homes and short-term holiday lets under new use classes. Another, tabled by Labour peer Baroness Hayman, allows for “regulations to be introduced to licence short-term rental properties”.

Irrespective of cross-party politics, there is a clear ambition to tighten planning regulations to protect local housing stock, and to preserve the vitality and prosperity of local communities. Allowing local planning authorities and community forums the powers to mitigate the unwanted effects of Airbnb’s over-expansion could certainly prove beneficial in managing housing stock in local areas as could the creation of a new use class for dwellinghouses. It will certainly be interesting to see what final form the amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill take, and what potential impacts this will have on the wider planning system and the housing and visitor economies in the area where the issue is at its most pressing.


Article by Will Hayes