Online listings plan for Airbnbs in Brighton fails
AN ATTEMPT to set up an online registration system for Airbnbs and other short-term rentals has failed after Labor councilors failed to win support from other political parties.
The attempt failed as councilors discussed the effects of holiday lettings and short-term rentals on the housing market in Brighton and Hove in response to a government consultation.
Brighton and Hove City Council is under pressure to build more homes.
Labor Councilor Amanda Evans has asked the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee to support a proposal for the council to implement a check-in system.
She also requested that a report outlining the options for an online registration service be prepared for the committee meeting in January.
At last week’s meeting, Cllr Evans, who represents the Queen’s Park area, said the roads between St James’s Street and the sea were ‘full’ of holiday rentals.
She said: “We get a lot of complaints from legitimate tourism businesses who have to pay taxes and have to comply with all kinds of health and safety regulations – and short-term holiday rentals don’t.
“It’s not just individuals who rent a room several times a year. There are many professionals involved in this field who earn a lot of money, do not pay taxes and also harm our tourism industry.
“There are all sorts of reasons why this is a problem. This causes misery and has a ripple effect on our already depressed housing market.
Cllr Evans said the recording would help resolve frustrations over the council’s lack of power to do anything. She said the council needed to pressure the government to act.
Labor Councilor Alan Robins, former chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee, spoke out in favor of a registry. He said it would allow operators to show that they had reached a certain standard.
Cllr Robins was part of a panel a few years ago that looked at problems with vacation rentals – and potential solutions.
He said: “There are people who suffer from these things, people who cannot stay at home at the weekend, leaving their house on Friday evening and only coming back on Monday because they knew something would take the upper hand in their lives.
“It’s been a problem for a long time in the city and we haven’t been able to deal with it. Let’s do what little we can to keep an eye on things.
Green councilor Marianna Ebel said she had run into problems with two “party houses” but felt the council had the “mechanisms” to act.
She said: ‘The problem with a voluntary registration system is that the worst offenders probably wouldn’t register and it wouldn’t give us any additional power to follow up.
“I represent a quiet area but we had problems with party houses. Residents contacted the environmental health team. I know it’s tedious because they have to collect evidence and keep a log of incidents.
“Ultimately, we were able to end the rental of these two buildings as vacation homes.”
Green Councilor Martin Osborne, who co-chairs the committee, said he supported the idea of a registration system, but added it should be a government-regulated national system.
He said: ‘In our response we say we would like to go much further with a registration and licensing system and caps on the number of vacation rentals in certain locations through planning rules.
“There is an HMO (multiple occupancy house) licensing system that works perfectly well. The government won’t have much to do about it.
Cllr Osborne said the biggest operator in the vacation rental market, Airbnb, also backs the principle of a national licensing system.
Conservative Councilor Samer Bagaeen voted with the Greens against the Labor proposals.
The committee agreed to support sending a response to the government consultation and provide evidence on the issue.
The council’s response to the government consultation said: ‘Housing demand and rising private sector rents are having a negative effect on housing affordability in the city.
“The lack of affordable housing supply has an economic impact on our ability to retain low-income working households and employment in the city across all sectors.
“With less stock available and the same (or increasing) number trying to access it, this will lead to higher market rents. We continue to see an increase in advertised rents at most size properties.