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The Impact of Airbnb on Local Affordable Housing

Monday, 5 December 2022

The meeting was presided over by Simon Brearley, the Chair of the Land Trust and was the third of three public meetings on housing called by the Trust, and the best attended with 80 people.

The first speaker was Isaac Rose, a Community organiser and researcher at Greater Manchester Tenants Union. He told the meeting that tenants have been reporting the problem of Airbnbs, where whole houses are often turned into Airbnbs. People have also reported that it is like having a nightclub next door.

Professional Airbnb landlords buying up properties and turning them into these short term lets. Although Isaac now lives in Manchester, he grew up in Hebden Bridge, and finds that many of his friends have been priced out, often because people are buying second homes, and properties to let out to tourists.

While Airbnb started as people letting out a room or part of their house, today most of the Airbnbs are whole home lets, bought for that purpose. Short term lets are more lucrative than normal renting. His organisation is campaigning to give councils powers in refusing conversion to short term lets. Airbnb themselves have a team of people specifically to lobby against more restrictions.

Emanuele Dal Carlo, from Venice, co-founder and president of Fairbnb.coop spoke to the meeting online from Italy. He repeated the message that the original aim of Airbnbs had been to share living space has been overtaken by an army of real estate professionals. They really lack any sense of social responsibility and don't work with locals to see just what the impact of Airbnbs are on any area.

After realising that the power of Airbnb was too much for them to influence, they decided to create an alternative model emphasising support for social projects. Fairbnb.coop are shortly are to launch in the UK but they only go where they have local support.

David Greenfield, Housing Strategy officer of Calderdale Council, has worked on and off for Calderdale since 1985 and has lived in both Hebden Bridge and Todmorden. He has found it difficult to find the exact numbers of Airbnbs because there's no register. Counting the number of websites doesn't seem to work as it gives a really low figure for Calderdale, less than a half of one per cent, ie 117 in the Upper Valley and Rippenden. He estimates that about 5% of new homes are for Airbnb.

David thinks the numbers are an under-estimate. According to council tax records, there are 367 second homes in Calderdale. And the tourist manager for Calderdale says there is a shortage of bed space for visitors. He is not at all convinced by the figures. In some places there will be a disproportionate amount of Airbnbs, eg, in Heptonstall, Pecket Well. They deny first time buyers the opportunity to buy somewhere at a reasonable price, and also restrict options for those wishing to rent. The Council has very little control over this, not even of Health and Safety. You don't need planning permission to change use. He intends to start mapping Airbnbs.

Local estate agents were invited to attend by declined the opportunity.

Paul Brannigan, the lottery funded employee of The Land Trust, reported that he had spoken to five local estate agents. One responded by letter and made the case that that Airbnb properties should be licensed, regulated and taxed more effectively, and that numbers should be monitored.

One speaker from the floor made the point that actually there were still relatively few Airbnbs in the area and he wanted to speak up for them. When I see the graffiti that says "Squat the Airbnb, I interpret that as violence." Emanuele Dal Carlo replied that renting out whole properties to Airbnb was not sustainable.

Cllr Sarah Courtney says that housing has become commodified. The origins of Airbnb in renting out a room are positive but there should be regulation and taxation.

Cllr Scott Archer said that the impact can make such a dent in places like Heptonstall. Young people are not able to buy houses locally.

Another speaker said that she has never known so many people homeless. What do we do about the knock on effects of AirBnb? The urgent need for affordable housing was a point made several times by speakers from the floor.

Simon Brearley finished by encouraging people to become members. They could sign up for one pound. All details are on the Calder Valley Community Land Trust website, where there are also details of current Land Trust projects. And on this page of their website you can listen to an audio recording of the meeting