An attempt to set up an online registration scheme for Airbnbs and other short-term lets has failed after Labour councillors were unable to win the support of other political parties.
The attempt failed as councillors discussed the effects of holiday lets and short-term lets 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.
Labour councillor Amanda Evans asked the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee to support a proposal for the council to set up a registration scheme.
She also asked for a report outlining the options for an online registration service to be prepared for the committee’s meeting in January.
At the meeting yesterday (Thursday 15 September), Councillor Evans, who represents Queen’s Park ward, said that the roads between St James’s Street and the sea were “packed” with holiday lets.
She said: “We get lots of complaints from the legitimate tourist businesses that have to pay taxes and have to conform with all types of health and safety regulation – and short-term holiday lets don’t.
“It’s not just individuals letting out a room a couple of times a year. There are a lot of professionals involved with this now who are making a lot of money, not paying tax on it and harming our tourist industry as well.
“There are all kinds of reasons why it’s a problem. It causes misery and has a knock-on effect on our already crisis-hit housing market.”
Councillor Evans said that registration would help to address frustrations over the council’s lack of power to do something. She said that the council had to lobby the government for action.
Labour councillor Alan Robins, a former chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee, spoke in support of a register. He said that it would enable operators to show that they had achieved some standard.
Councillor Robins was part of a panel some years ago that looked at the problems linked to holiday lets – and potential solutions.
He said: “There are people suffering at the hands of these things, people who can’t stay in their homes at the weekend, leaving their houses on Friday night and not coming back until Monday because they knew something would take over their lives.
“It’s been a problem for a long while in the city and we haven’t been able to get to grips with it. Let’s do what little we can to keep an eye on things.”
Green councillor Marianna Ebel said that she had experienced problems with two “party houses” but felt that the council had the “mechanisms” to take action.
She said: “The problem with a voluntary registration scheme is the worst offenders probably would not register and it would not give us any additional powers to follow up.
“I represent a quiet ward but we had problems with party houses. The residents got in touch with the environmental health team. I know it is tedious because they have to gather evidence and maintain an incident log.
“Ultimately, we managed to end these two buildings being rented out as holiday homes.”
Green councillor Martin Osborne, who co-chairs the committee, said that he supported the idea of a registration scheme but added that it should be a government-regulated national scheme.
He said: “In our response, we are saying we would like to go a lot further with a registration and licensing scheme and caps on the number of holiday lets in certain locations through planning rules.
“There is an HMO (house in multiple occupation) licensing scheme that works perfectly well. The government won’t have to do much to do this.”
Councillor Osborne said that the biggest operator in the holiday lets market, Airbnb, also supported the principle of a national licensing scheme.
Conservative councillor Samer Bagaeen voted with the Greens against the Labour proposals.
The committee agreed to back sending a response to the government’s consultation and to provide evidence about the problem.
The council’s response to the government consultation said: “Housing demand and rising private sector rents have an adverse effect on the affordability of housing in the city.
“The lack of affordable housing supply has an economic impact on our ability to retain lower-income working households and employment in the city across all sectors.
“With less available stock and the same (or increasing) numbers trying to access this, this will result in higher market rents being charged. We continue to see an increase in advertised rents across most sized properties.”
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