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'Holiday lets are turbo charging the housing crisis in Highlands'

By Gavin Musgrove

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Living Rent wants the Highland Council to be even more radical in tackling STLs.
Living Rent wants the Highland Council to be even more radical in tackling STLs.

Members of Living Rent will be handing a petition to Highland Council signed by hundreds of residents asking for greater regulation of short-term lets in the region.

The local authority is currently running a public online consultation on a short-term let control area for Badenoch and Strathspey.

The deadline for submissions is this Friday when the group will hand in their petition.

The Highlands is one of the main locations for short-term lets in Scotland and the growth in holiday homes thanks to the demand for properties fuelled by the rise of Airbnb, Booking.com and other booking sites is having a massive impact on local communities.

Soaring prices are leading to the loss of long-term homes and lack of affordable accommodation for local residents.

However, critics in the tourism sector believe the control area will do little to increase housing supply and will damage the local economy.

They have said that some properties in the strath area already being converted into second homes from lets and contribute far less in monetary terms to local businesses.

A Living Rent spokesperson said: "People across the Highlands are forced to live in caravans, or unsuitable accommodation, whilst young people are stuck with their parents or unable to continue living in their community and workers are forced to live far away from their work because finding suitable accommodation in the Highlands is so difficult.

"The housing shortage is having an impact on local services, as NHS workers are unable to fill posts and schools struggle to attract workers.

"Holiday lets are turbo charging the housing crisis in the Highlands and as people already struggle with inflation, energy costs and stagnant wages, it’s crucial that they are able to access affordable housing locally."

Members of Living Rent will be delivering a petition signed by more than 200 residents across the Highlands asking for the council to strengthen regulation regarding holiday lets and curb the overall number of short-term lets.

One of the proposals is that the number of holiday lets be reduced from the current level by having a limit on the amount of homes in any ward that can be converted to short-term lets.

The petition also asks that every short-term let permission has a time limit which would enable local communities to be more reactive to their needs regarding housing and that there are as few exceptions to the short-term let control area as possible in order to prioritise housing for local residents.

The group says that more than 17 per cent of potential housing stock has been lost to tourist accommodation in the strath while the council housing waiting list for Badenoch and Strathspey has increased by 40 per cent in the past five years.

This is considerably higher than across the rest of Highland.

The Scottish Government has introduced new legislation to regulate short-term lets and Edinburgh and the Highlands are the first councils implementing it this year.

The petition can be found here

Living rent member Sean Robertson said: “I am a lab worker at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. Me and my colleagues have been under enormous pressure to work since the pandemic but the cost of housing, including rents and house prices have sky-rocketed.

"The median rent in Inverness for a two-bedroom property is £700 per month.

“Private rents are unaffordable for workers on my gross salary of £25,000. Social housing is unavailable. I cannot afford to buy a house at the going rate.

"The proliferation of short term lets, which reduces further the available stock of housing, only serves to exacerbate this problem further.

“By not just limiting the growth of short-term and holiday lets but by dramatically reducing the overall numbers of houses given over to short term and holiday lets, the council could help address the housing crisis.

"This would mean that building a life and career in the Highlands would be a viable option as key workers wouldn’t be priced out of the market.

“No-one is against tourists visiting the Highlands but when profit is prioritised over the sustainability of communities, key workers and public services, urgent action needs to be taken.

"The council should reduce short-term lets and roll out control areas across the region as quickly as possible.”

Related articles:

Short term lets control zone moving forward for Badenoch and Strathspey

Scottish Ministers approve STL control area for strath – just the second in Scotland after Edinburgh

Fellow Living Rent member Hollie Irvine said: "I've been working on various projects across Highlands and Islands over the past year.

"I've also been applying for more project roles in the area from community projects to third-sector roles in Lewis, Mull to Fort William and Aviemore.

"I've been unable to find any rental properties which has meant I've had to turn down jobs or I've not been selected due to not having access to housing to start the role.

"I've lost jobs and projects due to a lack of housing which is such a shame as depopulation is a huge issue and when people want to move there to work and contribute to local communities they have to sleep in a tent or commute for miles.

"This is why we need greater regulation from the council.”

Who are Living Rent?

Living Rent is Scotland’s Tenants’ union. Its aim is to seek to 'unite and represent all tenants in Scotland whether they rent from the private or social sector'.

The group is not affiliated to any political party and only answers to its members.

It campaigns for better rights for tenants, protections against rent increases, evictions and poor-quality housing, and we represent and defend our members when they are having housing problems.

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