Earlier this month, the UK Housing Secretary confirmed what experts have been saying for years; there simply aren’t enough homes in Britain. This lack of supply – paired with the worst financial crisis in more than a decade – has seen home, rental, mortgage and living costs soar, hitting families hard.
On Airbnb, we see the impact of these challenges facing families across the UK. As the cost of living has risen, more people have turned to hosting to boost their income and afford their homes. Today, the vast majority of UK hosts share one listing and more than a third say the additional income helps them make ends meet and afford rising living costs.
Put simply, the opportunity for families to use their homes – typically their greatest expense – to flexibly boost their income can be an economic lifeline.
The diversification of tourism led by locals opening their homes is also valuable to communities, helping spread tourism benefits beyond hotel hotspots and supporting much-loved local institutions, from the village pub to the local bakery. A report by Oxford Economics estimated that travel on Airbnb generated £5.1 billion for England’s economy in 2019, supporting thousands of jobs in communities across the country.
Airbnb also recognises the vital need for regulation and we have long led our industry by calling for nationwide rules that support families while giving authorities the information they need to regulate short-term letting activity and clamp down on speculators that drive housing and over-tourism concerns.
In fact, our support for regulation is so strong that we ran a nationwide community consultation to develop proposals for clear and sensible rules that we presented to the government in our 2021 White Paper proposing a national host register. Recently we have written to the government to make clear our continued support, while asking ministers to go further and do more. Specifically, we have asked the government to introduce data sharing on occupancy levels by all booking intermediaries like Airbnb and other key players to support the development and enforcement of new rules and to help ensure that they are a success.
While it might seem unusual for a tech company to advocate for this type of data sharing, we strongly believe it is essential to ensuring the new rules help the government target the types of activity that raise demonstrated issues – instead of impacting the families who rely on income earned through Airbnb to help make ends meet.
To explain, the government’s current proposals to regulate short-term lets are built on two pillars: a new host register, which will allow local authorities to see who is renting their home and where; and updated planning rules, which will allow local authorities to intervene and add additional requirements where demonstrated concerns exist, for example over the proliferation of short-term rental activity.
Without data from all booking intermediaries on how often homes are actually being let, which is not currently being proposed, local authorities will be unable to distinguish between someone renting their home for a weekend, and a dedicated holiday home rented for 365 days a year. This knowledge gap could lead to planning interventions which, rather than protecting housing and guarding against speculators, risk cutting an economic lifeline that allows locals to keep pace with rising costs and afford to stay in their homes and the communities they love.
Introducing data sharing on occupancy levels from all booking intermediaries would close this gap and help ensure that local authority interventions are informed, targeted and proportionate to how often homes are actually being let out.
And while the UK’s housing crisis is a complex problem needing a sensible solution, collaboration between industry and the government on new rules can help safeguard the original idea on which Airbnb was built – helping everyday people afford their homes by allowing them to welcome guests for truly local, authentic and unique travel experiences.
By Amanda Cupples, General Manager of UK & Northern Europe at Airbnb