With its thriving and vibrant art scene, Margate was the perfect base for Dan Thompson, writer and social activist. But when his landlord came to sell his apartment, he was left with no place to move to, due to the scarcity of properties in the area.
He believes one of the reasons is that many of the houses are rented out short-term on Airbnb. Nearly 640 entire houses are rented in the coastal city, according to rental analytics company AirDNA.
Now when she travels, Thompson refuses to stay in Airbnb rentals that aren’t owner-occupied. “I realized that I was being hypocritical: by staying in one, I was part of the problem.”
When it started in 2007, the site was a way for people to earn extra money by renting out a room in their own home. Now it has become a technological giant that has changed the profile of rentals in many large cities around the world.
With properties used solely as holiday rentals, with no owner present, holiday hotspots like Whitstable, Cornwall and parts of Wales have been flooded with Airbnbs.
The number of “entire places” for rent in coastal areas of England and Wales shot up 56% between 2019 and 2022, compared with 15% in non-coastal areas, according to Inside Airbnb, a non-commercial project analyzing the impact. in residential housing markets. Airbnb has questioned the accuracy of these findings.
The government has put forward proposals to change holiday rental law, such as requiring landlords in England to apply for planning permission to convert properties into short-term rentals.
Communities Secretary Michael Gove says local people have been driven out of towns, villages and cities. “I am determined to make sure more people have access to affordable housing and prioritize families desperate to rent or own a home close to where they work,” he says.
While England has yet to implement new regulations, since last October, landlords in Scotland have required a local council license to operate, while the Welsh government has introduced a series of measures to curb the number of holiday rentals and second homes. These include a licensing scheme, making it a requirement to obtain a license to operate visitor accommodation, including short-term holiday rentals.
With the skyrocketing growth in size and influence of Airbnb, the biggest player in the short-term rental market, skepticism of the company has arisen from some travelers in the face of its growing influence.
Anna Beecroft lives in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds and says that Airbnb allows her to have changed her community. “When I walk through my town in the dead of winter, many of the houses are empty,” she says.
“When you go to the pub you don’t meet anyone like you used to. I think people need to stop and think a bit more about where they’re booking, and stay at a B&B or a pub instead.”
Amy Thraves-Connor, a museum researcher living in Leeds, says she avoids staying in Airbnbs that aren’t owner-occupied and instead chooses people’s homes. “It’s better to go back to somewhere that feels like home. I’ve met a lot of great people and am still friends with a lot of hosts. I have a disability that affects my mobility, so having someone who lives there, who can help me with my bags, for example, helps. Airbnb should not be about companies and landlords buying properties to rent at exorbitant prices.”
The prevalence of properties rented through Airbnb in Margate led local yoga teacher Laura Graham-Dullart to avoid staying in rentals on the site. “There are not enough places to rent. I used to use Airbnb a lot, but in places where there aren’t as many people renting a room or where someone is going away for a week, people are buying properties to use as Airbnbs.” She says that she now prefers to book through traditional vacation companies.
James Hacon, a restaurant consultant living in Crieff, Scotland, says he started using Airbnb in 2010 because it connected him with where and with the people where he was staying.
“We continued to use Airbnb fairly loyally until about four years ago,” he says. “That’s when we saw the platform become much more transactional, with remote sign-ups, many more investors, and companies running multiple Airbnbs.”
It was after a family trip to Canada last November, when they rented a ski lodge for a week, that she decided to stop using Airbnb altogether.
“After paying, the host posted a public review saying we hadn’t cleaned well enough on checkout. We completed the 20 point checklist and paid over £100 in cleaning fee. Now I tend to stay in hotels, resorts or serviced apartments as it is not worth the risk of having a bad experience.”
Airbnb rejects any suggestion that people are increasingly avoiding non-owner-occupied rentals, stating that it has not “seen any evidence to support this claim.” He says that 80% of users on the site list a property and that “40% of hosts say the extra income helps make ends meet and pay for rising costs of living.”
Ruth Strange, researcher at Ethical Consumer magazine, says that two alternatives to Airbnb are Homestay and Fairbnb. “Both have interesting business models and aim to help the communities in which they operate.
“The market entry of these and other more sustainable options shows that there is a real appetite among consumers for vacation options that do not have the same negative impacts on destinations and the environment, and communities at large.”
How costs have changed
When Airbnb started, one of its biggest strengths was its affordability, compared to hotels. However, in some cases, particularly when hosts charge additional cleaning fees, and since prices have increased, it can be a less attractive proposition, especially for a short stay.
For example, a studio in Richmond would set you back £505, including cleaning fees, for two nights June 26-28, while a stay at the Bingham Riverhouse boutique hotel, for the same dates, starts from £373.
Meanwhile, an overnight stay in a private room at Jesmond in Newcastle in May, booked through Airbnb, costs £123 including fees, while the nearby Jesmond Dene House hotel costs £126.