City leader pledges rethink over Edinburgh’s festival flats curbs after admitting ‘uninented consequences’

Edinburgh City Council’s leader has pledged a rethink on new curbs on the short-term letting of flats in the Scottish capital after admitting they would have “unintended consequences” for its world-famous festivals.

Cammy Day has promised to review new restrictions on home sharing and home letting during the city’s biggest events after warnings that more than half of the city’s temporary accommodation capacity could vanish due to the red tape and new costs involved.

He said the council needed to “lighten the burden” to ensure people were still able to easily rent out a spare room or their own home to performers and festivalgoers, insisting this was not the aim of the new rules.

However he has insisted a long-awaited clampdown on “secondary letting,” which has seen thousands of properties turned into permanent short-term letting accommodation, would still be pursued due to the impact on the housing market and antisocial behaviour complaints.

Cllr Day has promised a “light touch” approach and to “strike the right” balance during the festivals days after warnings that the Fringe programme may shrink by a third by 2024 without a rethink over a new licensing regime being pursued on the back of recent Scottish Government legislation.

Home sharing and home letting was responsible for around 25,400 bed nights last August, around 27 per cent of the peak provision needed.

The council pledged last year to offer “temporary exemptions” – for up to six weeks during major events – over a new scheme requiring anyone regularly renting out a spare room, their own home or an additional property to secure a licence.

However it later emerged that people would still have to apply for a temporary exemption and meet “mandatory” conditions in the legislation, including the need for gas, electric and water safety checks.

The government, which later insisted it is up to councils whether or not to offer exemptions or how to apply them, has delayed the scheme’s introduction for six months, until September.

However Festivals Edinburgh, which oversees the city’s major events, has warned that losing half the temporary accommodation would “make the city increasingly unaffordable and unfeasible for festival participants and visitors, putting these global cultural assets for Scotland at risk of a downward spiral.”

Cllr Day said the “vast majority” of people in Edinburgh believed that regulation of short-term letting in the city was “non-negotiable.”

He added: “The city has asked us to really look at how we’re managing short-term letting and party flats.

“I would accept there are some unintended consequences in the legislation. We have to be careful that these unintended consequences don’t inflate the market.

“I’ve recently met with the festivals and the government to discuss these concerns. The six-month delay buys us time to get it right.

“We’re trying to re-manage the city better by putting commercial properties back into residential communities, where they belong.

“But we also accept the need for affordable accommodation, not just for performers, but also for people who want to come here for the festivals.

“We do need to re-look at the six-week exemption and be really clear on what we’re asking people to do.

“I’d like us to be as light touch as we possibly can, while ensuring these properties are as safe as possible for people to stay in.”

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