Airbnb: More properties in Edinburgh and Bristol than homeless families in temporary housing, data shows
Amid a housing crisis, there are now more than 35,000 homes being advertised for short stays through Airbnb across Bristol, Edinburgh, London and Greater Manchester.
The cities collectively have more than 5,000 houses or apartments listed on the short-term lettings site, likely enough to accommodate the 1,170 households in temporary accommodation in Bristol and the 3,370 in Edinburgh, according to NationalWorld analysis of data sourced from Inside Airbnb.
Campaign group Action on Empty Homes said Airbnb investors were “sucking homes out of residential use”, while homelessness charity, Crisis, also said it was “unacceptable” that despite a “chronic shortage of affordable homes”, thousands of properties were being used as short-term lets. Airbnb declined to comment.
Inside Airbnb is a housing activist website which scrapes data from the official Airbnb website and shares the information publicly. It shares listings data on cities around the world, including four UK cities – Bristol, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester and London.
Airbnb hosts are able to list everything from a shared room to a full house on the short-term lettings website. The tech giant describes an “entire place” as somewhere that holidaymakers can have the whole property to themselves. It usually includes a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a separate, dedicated entrance. The majority of listings in the four British cities were for entire homes or apartments - more than 55,000 properties, the Inside Airbnb data shows.
To identify entire home listings which were likely to be operating mainly as a short-term let rather than, for example, someone letting out their home occasionally while they are away, we looked for listings that met one or more of these three requirements:
- They had at least 12 reviews over the past year;
- They were available for booking for at least three months (92 days) in the year ahead;
- They accepted ‘instant bookings’ without requiring the host to accept, which Inside Airbnb describes as an indicator of a commercial listing.
This resulted in more than 35,000 homes advertised for short stays through Airbnb across the four cities. This could be enough to house more than half (53%) the number of households in temporary accommodation in the four areas, although homelessness data does not show the exact number of bedrooms these households would require.
Greater Manchester was found to have 2,684 properties, equivalent to 62% of households in temporary accommodation, while London had 27,360, equivalent to around half the number (48%) of these homeless households. The data is a snapshot of listings taken as of March 2023 and is subject to change.
Nationally, Bristol, London and Greater Manchester were found to have enough full homes listed on Airbnb to accommodate almost a third (31%) of the total number of homeless families living in temporary housing in England.
Local authorities in both England and Scotland have a duty to provide homeless people with temporary accommodation in certain circumstances, for example until a permanent home becomes available. This accommodation can include hostels and B&Bs. Figures on households living in temporary housing are sourced from the UK and Scottish governments and cover the quarter to September 2022.
‘Stop Airbnb investors sucking homes out of residential use’
Chris Bailey, national campaign manager at Action on Empty Homes said in visitor hotspots, a high number of holiday homes and Airbnbs “raises rents, pushes house prices out of reach of those on average incomes and above all limits the availability of affordable homes to rent on a long-term basis; as more and more property is sucked into the shortlet or Airbnb market – making huge profits for investor owners but housing nobody at all”.
He said: “In our latest campaign Airbnb Sucks we are keeping up the pressure on the government to introduce meaningful changes that stop Airbnb investors sucking homes out of residential use. Otherwise we can build as much new housing as we like but it won’t make a difference if no one except wealthy cash-rich investors can afford to buy it and all they do is rent it on Airbnb instead of letting anyone actually make it their home.”
Francesca Albanese, acting director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, added similar concerns: “It is unacceptable that despite a chronic shortage of affordable homes, thousands of properties are either lying empty or being used as short-term holiday lets. With almost 100,000 households stuck in temporary accommodation, including tens of thousands of children, in many cases these properties are a missed opportunity to provide people with much-needed homes.
“The Government must put a plan in place to deliver the social homes that are desperately needed and increase the supply of truly affordable homes, including initiatives to bring existing homes back into use for people that need them.”
‘Local homes at affordable prices’
On 12 April, the UK government announced new proposals to give communities greater control over short-term lets in tourist hot spots. Under the proposals planning permission would be required for an existing home to be used as a short term let. It said the measures would also “strengthen” the tourism sector.
Announcing the move, housing secretary Michael Gove said: “Tourism brings many benefits to our economy but in too many communities we have seen local people pushed out of cherished towns, cities and villages by huge numbers of short-term lets.
“I’m determined that we ensure that more people have access to local homes at affordable prices, and that we prioritise families desperate to rent or buy a home of their own close to where they work.”
The Scottish government has also announced new plans that could allow councils the power to charge up to double the full rate of council tax on second homes in Scotland from April 2024.
A spokesperson for the Scottish government said: “We developed a licensing scheme for short-term lets in response to concerns raised by residents about the impact of short-term let properties on their local communities. This will give councils flexibility to develop licensing schemes that meet local needs, and sits alongside powers for councils to establish short-term let control areas.
“We know short-term lets make a positive contribution to Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies, and these measures will allow them to continue doing just that while ensuring this is balanced with the needs of local residents and communities.”