Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Concerns over rise of holiday lets in Edinburgh city centre

Edinburgh old town Image copyright Getty Images

Concerns have been raised that a sharp rise in holiday lets in Edinburgh city centre is making it more difficult to find somewhere to live in the capital.

Research by the Scottish Green Party suggests that about half the homes in the EH1 postcode will be holidays lets by 2050.

They are calling for more regulation on short-term lets.

But others say the trend is boosting the local economy as more people holiday in Edinburgh.

Some home-owners have complained they can only afford to live in the area if they rent out their property at peak times.

Supplement pension

Margo Mason lives in a flat in Edinburgh's New Town. She is one of a growing number of people who rent out their homes at busy times of the year.

The extra income enables her to stay living in the city centre.

"I needed to supplement my pension," she said. "I didn't have enough money coming in to live on. I could pay all my bills but I couldn't buy food.

"The alternative would be that I would have to sell my house. I've been here 25 years, I don't want to do that. So it enables me to stay here."

Homeowners like Margo still live in the places that they rent out during peak times but there is now a growing trend in Edinburgh for people to buy up properties which they will never live in themselves but instead use them for holiday lets.

Critics say this is causing problems.

Ross Cowan has lived in the Grassmarket for two years. But in that time the number of holiday lets in his stair has risen from one to three.

"You've got noise disruption, you've got littering within the stair," he said.

"The people who are coming in don't have a degree of care that the residents have a degree of.

"For somebody coming into a holiday let, it's like a hotel without any staff to bother them. They can effectively do what they like because there's no one there and nine times of 10, they do."

Estate agents are worried about losing homes from the long-term rental market.

Rob Trotter from DJ Alexander has noticed significant changes since the rise of short term lets.

"We're certainly seeing rental values increasing, I would say, at an unsustainable level and property values in the city centre are increasing.

"If you're trying to move to Edinburgh to start a job and you can't afford to live in the city centre or you can't find a flat, that's difficult for businesses."

Image caption Green MSP Andy Wightman has called for more power for councils on the issue

The Scottish Green Party estimates that if current trends continue, around half the homes in the EH1 postcode will be holiday lets by 2050.

MSP Andy Wightman says councils need more power to control how properties listed as residential are used.

"We're calling for the city council to be able to have the choice and to be able to make decisions about how residential property is used - and that means introducing new use-class orders in the planning system.

"So for example, if you want to change your flat into a shop, you have to apply for planning consent. If you want to change your flat to a holiday home, you don't. We want that to be a requirement so that the city council can come to a view on how it wants to see residential property used."

Cities like London, Paris and Berlin have already introduced regulations on short-term lets.

Michael Allan, of property management firm BnBBuddy, says the short term lets is good for the local economy as more people can afford to travel to the capital.

But he agrees there is room for more regulation.

"All the negatives can be easily solved by the council coming to companies like us, taking our insight, taking advice from long term rental companies to combine to create good policy that fits Edinburgh.

"It doesn't copy what's happening in London or Manchester because they are different cities with different problems. It's about concentrating on the local issues."