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Clampdown on idle Airbnb properties urgently needed to tackle housing crisis – Lombard

20th May 2021 - Senator Tim Lombard

Government must move swiftly to ensure enforcement of Airbnb agents operating without planning permission who are soaking up the rental market by limiting the availability of affordable properties, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Tim Lombard welcomed work by the Housing and Tourism departments on ensuring the enforcement of legislation brought in by former Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy which guarantees homes in areas of high demand are not exclusively used for short term lettings.

Senator Lombard said: “Airbnb is effectively sucking the life out of rental markets in villages, towns and cities across the country, leaving local people locked out of accessing homes.

“An Airbnb property which is occupied for three months during the summer season can make significantly more money than a property rented out for 12 months. However, by letting properties on a seasonal basis, large amounts of homes across the country are lying vacant for the vast majority of the year.

“During a time when we’re facing a critical lack of supply of housing, we can’t afford to have perfectly good homes lying empty for over 50% of the year. While tourists might want to book a holiday home for a two-week break during the summer, local families are left struggling to find a home at a price they can afford.

“For example, Kinsale has seen rental prices increase dramatically over the past few years due to lack of supply in the local property market. At the same time, we’ve seen hundreds of houses become available on the Airbnb website for holiday use. The majority of these houses are in residential areas, and when they received planning permission it was on the basis that the properties would be for residential use only.

“We discussed the impact of short-term lettings on the housing market during the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting last night when we heard from Minister Darragh O’Brien. The Minister agreed that enforcement is needed regarding these lettings following the 2019 legislation brought in by former Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

“Under the 2019 legislation, people who let a second property on a short-term basis have to apply for ‘change of use’ planning permission. The granting of such planning permission is dependent on the availability of housing in the areas, taking Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) in particular into account.

“These regulations are in line with laws implemented in cities such as Berlin, Amsterdam and Toronto.

“Airbnb agents need to be aware of these regulations and the penalties they could face; under planning laws, the maximum fine for non-compliance with planning breaches is a €5,000 fine or six months imprisonment.

“The Minister committed to ensuring strict enforcement of this legislation to tackle vacant properties. He also stated that he’s currently working with Minister Catherine Martin on plans to further regulate short-term lettings.

“We have these regulations in place, we now need to ensure that they’re being actively enforced so that local communities can feel their tangible benefits.

“We’re in the middle of a housing crisis where supply of homes is our number one issue. We need to look at putting a scheme in place to provide alternative tourism accommodation and drive Airbnb properties back into our residential housing market. Surely our towns would be the better for it,” concluded Senator Lombard.

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