Spread of holiday lets must be stopped if we are to end the housing crisis

Long-term tenants are being ejected only to see homes used for short-term rentals

Temple Bar Residents established there are now more apartments in Dublin being made available for short-term rental use through agencies such as Airbnb and Booking.com than there are flats to let for long-term residential use through websites such as Daft.ie or Rent.iePhotographer: Photograph: Getty Images

Temple Bar Residents established there are now more apartments in Dublin being made available for short-term rental use through agencies such as Airbnb and Booking.com than there are flats to let for long-term residential use through websites such as Daft.ie or Rent.iePhotographer: Photograph: Getty Images

 

Recent events have understandably overshadowed news of direct relevance to Dublin’s housing crisis – the astonishing fact that at least 2,000 apartments and houses in the city have been turned over to more profitable short-term holiday rental use.

These units have, in effect, been taken out of the city’s housing stock at a time when Dublin is experiencing an emergency, with hundreds of homeless families being put up at public expense in hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs – at a cost to the local authorities of €25 million last year alone.

Temple Bar Residents, which I chair, established that there are now more apartments in Dublin being made available for short-term rental use through agencies such as Airbnb and Booking. com than there are flats to let for long-term residential use through websites such as Daft.ie or Rent.ie

Current figures show 1,748 apartments or houses in Dublin are available on Airbnb alone. If other agencies, such as Booking.com or the Key Collection are included, the number exceeds 2,000 – compared with 1,276 Dublin residential listings.

Declaring income

Temple Bar Residents are aware of a number of cases where long-term tenants have been forced out by large rent increases or have had their tenancies terminated, and the apartments were then let out via Airbnb or similar sites, for €120 a night and often a lot more.

A website called InsideAirbnb.com, which provides an “independent, non-commercial set of tools and data that allows you to explore how Airbnb is being used in cities around the world”, contains a full list of the agency’s short-term lettings in Dublin – both “entire homes” and rooms.

I was reeling when I scrolled through the list and saw the extent of the issue here.

Apart from taking a considerable number of homes from the rental stock, the growing volume of short-term lets is also having a major impact on permanent residents because of associated antisocial behaviour, with apartments turned into (very noisy) “party flats” and even brothels.

A fellow Temple Bar resident reported that one of the apartments in his building became a prostitution “holiday let” for two weeks last Christmas. His four-year-old was scared by the men “calling day and night”, but the Garda merely referred him to Dublin City Council’s planning department.

All of this has been happening “under the radar” but, now that we know the scale of the phenomenon, urgent action is needed to curtail the displacement of rental housing by short-term lets, following the examples of other cities -- notably Berlin, Barcelona and Paris, where it is widely perceived as a problem.

Immediate steps should include setting up a taskforce to look at all aspects of this issue, including investigating the planning and tax status of all short-term units and rigorously enforce planning laws to ensure that properties designed for residential use are not turned over to commercial use.

Crisis

There has been a lot of talk of having a minister for rural affairs in the next government, whoever forms it. That may be needed, not least to transform the fortunes of declining rural towns. But there is also an urgent need for a minister to take exclusive charge of housing and planning.

Only by having someone with a single-minded focus on planning the delivery of new housing – both for sale and for rent – can we hope to bring an end to the current crisis. And the steps needing to be taken, urgently, must include a crackdown on the use of homes as holiday lets.

* Frank McDonald is the former Irish Times environment editor and chairman of Temple Bar Residents

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