MP: I’ve used Airbnb but . . .

Friday, 17th June

Cllr Nickie Aiken IMG_7377

Nickie Aiken

TO the House of Commons yesterday (Thursday) where Nickie Aiken, the Conservative MP for Two Cities, could be found delivering a fresh warning on a now very familiar topic.

There she could be found on her feet passionately railing against the scourge of Airbnb short lets and how their booming popularity has sometimes made life a misery for those living next door.

“From Mayfair to Marylebone and from Hyde Park to Covent Garden, no neighbour­hood in Westminster is now free from the short-term let blight,” she told the Commons.

It stands to reason that people flying in for one night or two are not going to show the same care as people looking to bed down in the community.

Her speech came with an admission: Ms Aiken has made bookings on the website herself.

“I want to make it very clear that I am not against short-term letting,” she said.

“I absolutely recognise the many positives. As an Airbnb user in the past, I have benefited from being able to rent a home while on holiday. Short-term letting has provided and does provide an innovative and imaginative competition to the accommodation industry.”

If you have booked a holiday this summer or are still trying to, you’ll know hotel prices are rocketing higher than the planes that will take to you to them, so it probably figures everybody – whatever their salary – might consider a browse now on the short-let alternative.

And at least Ms Aiken was being honest about her use.

How often do you hear people moan about the loss of bookshops but know the same people are just as seduced by the efficiency of Amazon as most others. And big chains are ruining the high street, they say, with a vat of hazelnut latte from Costa Coffee or Starbucks in their hands.

Disclaimer offered, Ms Aiken did go on to demand action, even if it was still odd to hear her refer to a colleague and a past-tense occupation.

“What we need is exactly what the former leader of Westminster City Council, Councillor Rachael Robathan, called for in response to more than 2,000 breaches of short-term letting rules—namely, to allow councils to go after the landlord rather than the short-term letter.

“That would help resolve the issue.”

She added that the “positive impacts” she had seen with Airbnb “are paired with negative impacts, including lower health and safety standards; unfair competition for other hospitality providers; general economic issues such as mixed tax revenues and less availability of long-term rentals; increased rents and house prices; and pricing ordinary local people out of their area’s housing and rental markets.”

The same warning was offered by Karen Buck, the Labour MP for Westminster North, who has been banging the drum for some time.

“The clear indication is that it is financially advantageous to landlords to move out of the lettings market and into the short-let market, where they can make substantially more income and enjoy significant tax advantages in doing so,” she told MPs.

“All over our borough of Westminster, properties where people could once live are being used just for the holiday industry.

“That has all kinds of impacts on people in housing need, and on communities.”

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