December 8, 2023 10:57 am

Insert Lead Generation
Nikka Sulton

A coalition of Conservative MPs, predominantly representing constituencies in Cornwall, has taken a unified stand to lobby the government, urging a comprehensive crackdown on the proliferation of Airbnbs and other short-term rental platforms. Spearheaded by Steve Double, the representative for St Austell and Newquay, these MPs are drawing attention to the escalating issue of short-term rentals adversely affecting the local housing landscape.

During a recent House of Commons debate, Steve Double shed light on the magnitude of the challenge, emphasizing the staggering figure of 18,989 live listings on Airbnb and similar platforms in Cornwall. The crucial concern voiced by the MPs revolves around the transformation of properties originally intended as homes for residents into lucrative short-term rental units. This substantial shift in usage has resulted in a scarcity of available housing options for local communities.

Steve Double, in his opening remarks, presented a stark comparison between the expansive presence of short-term rentals and the limited availability of residential listings on traditional platforms like Rightmove. According to his data, while there were nearly 19,000 live listings on Airbnb in Cornwall, Rightmove recorded a mere 895 available residential listings in the same region in October 2023. This stark contrast underscores the pressing need for legislative measures to address the growing disparity between short-term rentals and housing accessibility for local residents.

Holiday rentals, concentrated in coastal communities and popular tourist destinations, are at the forefront of the discussion among MPs focusing on housing concerns. While acknowledging the significance of tourism, particularly in Cornwall, the emphasis is on striking a balance to address the critical shortage of genuinely affordable housing for local residents, especially essential workers.

The housing situation in Cornwall is described as severe, marked by a confluence of factors such as heightened demand, soaring property prices outpacing average incomes, and a burgeoning population. This has resulted in an unprecedented number of individuals, a staggering 26,136, waiting to secure housing in Cornwall. Additionally, 857 households find themselves in temporary accommodation, with 438 of them comprising families with children, painting a stark picture of the housing crisis in the region.

The housing predicament in Cornwall transcends simple construction solutions. Since the Conservative-led Cornwall Council assumed control in 2021, a commendable 5,442 houses have been constructed, with 1,322 specifically earmarked for the local populace. Despite this proactive approach, the reality of the past two decades, marked by above-national average levels of house building, underscores a systemic issue. Continuous construction, though impactful, proves insufficient in addressing the escalating demand. Cornwall’s housing market is considered broken, warranting decisive government intervention to rectify the underlying challenges.

Cherilyn Mackrory, an additional Cornwall Tory MP representing Truro and Falmouth, shed light on the acute nature of the problem, especially in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic. During a village constituency surgery in St Agnes, Mackrory encountered 15 constituents within a mere two hours, each grappling with imminent eviction or facing exorbitant rent hikes. This firsthand experience vividly highlights the urgency of tackling the housing crisis in Cornwall. It underscores the necessity for comprehensive government intervention to address the pressing issues and formulate effective strategies for sustainable housing solutions in the region.

The majority of these properties were destined for transformation into Airbnbs. Subsequently, a collective of southwest Conservative MPs has actively engaged in lobbying the government to instigate changes in this realm, aiming to curtail the ongoing trend.

However, this initiative has devolved into a politically charged dispute, involving Liberal Democrat Andrew George, a former MP in Cornwall. George, speaking to Cornwall Live, likened inviting Conservative MPs to address the housing emergency to entrusting an arsonist to extinguish their own fire.

He criticized the Conservative party, alleging that they exacerbated the situation by disbursing over £400 million in taxpayers’ money to holiday home owners in Cornwall over the past decade. Moreover, he accused them of persisting in this practice through a covert tax loophole, despite assurances five years ago that they would put an end to this perceived scandal.

“Their policies, which have included turning Cornwall’s housing stock into a money-making racket for the wealthy and which has helped inflate local house prices beyond the reach of local families, are part of the problem. Not a solution. The Conservative government insisted that Cornwall accepts an extra 7,500 homes onto its already excessive housebuilding target, “to meet the growing demand for second homes”.

“On top of this, they flatly rejected my proposal 13 years ago to introduce planning law which would restrict second and holiday homes and which would mean that any attempt to use a permanent home as a “non-permanent residence”, should require planning permission and would then come with higher taxes and restrictions. Thousands of local families still face eviction from their rented home to make way for yet another holiday let.”


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