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One in 10 dwellings in parts of Lochaber is now an AirBnB, according to new research, with such short-term lets (STL) contributing to severe housing pressure in the Fort William area and prompting a call for a crackdown on second homes from the area’s MSP.
A new Scottish Government study – the People, Communities and Places report – researched the impact of STLs on communities across Scotland, and stated that there were 425 AirBnB listings in the Caol and Mallaig council ward (as of May 2019) – more than a tenth of the area’s 3,971 dwellings (2017 figure).
In Fort William and Ardnamurchan ward, the figure was 618 listings out of 6,344 dwellings – just under 10 per cent (9.74 per cent).
Other Highland hotspots included Skye (18.63 per cent of all dwellings) and Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh (10.73 per cent). The national average was 1.2 per cent.
Kevin Stewart, the Scottish Government’s Housing Minister, has pledged to bring forward proposals to tackle the issue before the end of the year.
Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency MSP Kate Forbes said on the one hand, there is clearly high demand for accommodation over the busy tourist period, and STLs meet that need. On the other hand, it is reducing housing supply and hiking prices.
‘The pressure on housing in Fort William, Skye and other parts of the Highlands is severe. That’s why it is so important that we all work together to resolve it,’ said Ms Forbes.
‘There is no single solution. We’ve got to build more affordable homes, as the Scottish Government is doing particularly in the West Highlands. We’ve got to provide financial support to those who can’t afford a home, such as the Self-Build Loan Fund or the Croft House Grant scheme.
‘And, ultimately, we’ve got to crackdown on second homes, many of which are sitting there idly while families are homeless.
‘The Housing Minister has said he will bring forward proposals before the end of the year, and I look forward to seeing these in due course.’
Lochaber Chamber of Commerce CEO Frazer Coupland said the organisation was also looking forward to the Scottish Government’s proposals.
‘Like other communities, Lochaber has to balance the economic benefits of the short-term letting market against the ongoing need for housing and accommodation for a growing workforce,’ said Mr Coupland. ‘The market place will benefit from clarity and governance in this sector.’
The report includes the results of a consultation on STLs, which found wide support for regulation, according to the independent analysis published this week.
More than 1,000 responses from communities, landlords and businesses raised a number of concerns about the effects of STLs, including anti-social behaviour, safety fears and the impact on the housing market.
The Scottish Government is considering the analysis of responses to the consultation, which also highlighted the economic benefits brought by STLs, and will use the evidence to inform policy proposals to be announced later this year.