Conservative Cabinet Minister Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has used a major speech at the think tank Policy Exchange to attack a bill put forward by Westminster North Labour MP Karen Buck that seeks to restrict the spread of homes in Westminster being used permanently by Airbnb and other short let operators.
Truss tweeted about her comments that ‘Karen Buck MP has put forward legislation to restrict Airbnb.#antifreedom’ .
Her speech claimed that ‘Labour’s Karen Buck has put forward legislation which would force people to register with the government before using AirBnB’ as part of a wider attack on Labour’s efforts to crack down on those abusing the rules and re-balance the economy.
As a leading member of the Government Truss is bound by Cabinet collective responsibility meaning that her public statements must reflect Government policy, showing Conservative Government opposition to legislative efforts to tackle the spread of short lets. (The speech was live tweeted by the Conservative Party Press Office showing that it reflected party policy).
Since the Conservative- Lib Dem Coalition removed the requirement for short-lets flats to require planning permission if they are being let out for under 90 days in the 2015 Deregulation Act, the number of properties in Wesminster being used for short-lets has ballooned. Much of this growth has been by those breaking the new rules and using them for year-round short-lets that rent the flat out through different websites, change the flat numbers advertised or falsely claim only one room was being let out.
Labour supports the rights of ordinary people to rent out their properties when they go away on holiday but argue that councils need greater support to tackle the problems caused by unscrupulous landlords. Because landlords in Westminster can earn far more by letting out a flat on a weekly basis rather than a normal shorthold tenancy a huge number of flats that could be providing homes for local people are instead becoming mini-hotels. These short let flats are causing huge disruption to local communities with security concerns due to the number of people coming and going, late night parties and increased littering.
Westminster Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said:
“Hard working Council officers face huge challenges trying to manage the mushrooming ‘buy-to-short let’ market in Westminster. Karen Buck MP has tried to work on a cross-party basis to give councils the information they need to separate out the law abiding residents occasionally letting out their flat from the rogue landlords who are hurting our communities.
It is hugely disappointing the Conservative Government does not recognise this problem in Westminster but it is clear that Labour does and we will continue to fight for change to support the efforts of local council officers. Elizabeth Truss called her speech ‘The Conservative Case for Disruption’ and that is exactly what her Government’s policies are doing to our communities.”
The outline of Karen Buck MP’s proposed legislation, put forward as a 10 minute rule bill in Parliament, would encourage those using Airbnb and other sites to inform their local councils that they were doing so. This would hugely assist council environmental health teams narrow down on who was breaking the law and who was following it.