Airbnb in Westminster
Airbnb in Westminster

Conservatives Block Labour’s Attempts to Regulate Short-Term Lets – Again

Labour MP for Westminster North Karen Buck has today introduced draft legislation (a ‘ten-minute’ rule bill) that calls on the Government to give local councils more powers to manage how properties used as ‘Airbnb’ short-lets. Westminster Labour Group, as part of their campaign for the 2022 local council elections, are also announcing a package of measures to help tackle the issue even if the Conservative Government fails to take the action our community needs.

Westminster has over 10,000 properties listed on the leading platform AirBnB, and a report in 2020 found that 87.5% of revenue made through AirBnB was coming from entire properties, some of which could instead be used instead to provide permanent homes for residents. Far too often short-lets have become a large scale commercial enterprise which can have massive impacts on their neighbours, local communities and even the supply of homes for living in.

This is why Karen Buck MP and Westminster Labour Group support the creation of an easy to manage registration scheme where people wanting to let their property out inform the council about who is renting what and for how long. This will make it much easier to deal with rule-breakers and to crack down on problems like noise, rubbish and anti-social behaviour.

However the Conservatives have blocked these common sense solutions at every turn. Karen Buck’s proposal in the Commons was immediately objected to by Conservative MP Christopher Chope, who said he was there to “show solidarity with those people who are the targets of [Karen Buck’s] bill]” and that Conserative MPs were intent on not allowing short-term lets to be regulated.

The problem was created in the first place in 2015 when then Conservative Minister Housing Minister Brandon Lewis removed the requirement to get planning permission from the local authority if people wanted to let their homes for upto 90 days, describing the move as ‘slashing red tape’. Despite years of evidence from local residents in Westminster and across the country the Government has refused to act, seeing their hands off approach as part of their ‘deregulate at all costs’ dogma. Liz Truss MP (then Chief Secretary to the Treasury and now Foreign Secretary) has described Airbnb landlords as ‘freedom fighters’ (although with some holiday lets it can sound like residents are living next door to an armed uprising…). She also slammed previous efforts by Karen Buck to get the Government to take action.

Labour Councillors and Candidates are picking up problems with Airbnb at places including Park West, Queens Gardens, Porchester Square and Queensborough Terrace. If elected to run Westminster Council on 5th May 2022 Labour will work alongside Karen to get the Government to give the council the powers it needs to protect our communities. However even within the existing rules Westminster Labour would:

  • Increase the number of inspections to try and clamp down on those breaking the law by secretly letting for more than 90 days.
  • Require all homes built on council land irrespective of tenure have lease conditions ensuring permanent residential use, to make it harder for them to be left empty or to be used as Airbnb short-lets. We’d look at the feasibility of expanding this principle to the private sector through ‘a Wasted Housing Supply’ planning policy
  • Make it easier for residents and community groups to report Airbnb properties and empty homes
  • Examine ways to name and shame landlords breaking the rules on Airbnb or leaving their homes empty
  • Enforce these conditions with new empty homes, environmental health and housing officers.

Karen Buck MP said “No one is talking about banning short-lets. They can be a convenient way for people to make some extra income from living spaces they aren’t using, and boost the tourist economy, but I want hosts to be registered so councils can make sure this is done in a responsible manner which avoids some of the negative impacts experienced in Westminster and other communities.”

Westminster Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “If elected to run the Council in May Labour will take all actions in its power to ensure short-lets are properly managed and campaign for greater powers from Central Government to better care for our local communities.”

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