Airbnb has ruined my village

airbnb woolacombe village city great britain self catering holiday

When I load up the Airbnb home page to check out rentals in North Cornwall, it tells me I can make up to £ 1,622 a month by hosting right where I live. Given the rising energy bills and rampant inflation, it’s tempting. I live on a farm near Pendle Hill, Lancashire. It’s remote and windswept, but it might appeal to a city dweller after some harsh northern weather.

But Airbnb tells me there are 344 homes nearby already listed. Maybe it’s not a winter option, then.

In Braunton, North Devon, the site claims “over 1,000” vacation rentals. That sounds like a lot for a village with around 7,000 inhabitants. But the rate in other seaside settlements is even higher. Recent research by campaign group Inside Airbnb revealed that, across the country, one in 67 coastal homes are listed on the rental site, up from one in 105 in 2019.

In Newquay (Cornwall) and Whitby (North Yorkshire) one in six homes is on Airbnb; in St Ives (Cornwall) it is one in five; in Woolacombe and Croyde (both also in North Devon) as well as in St Andrews (Scotland), it is one in four.

Emma Dee Hookway, 43, was living in Braunton in the summer of 2021, when her landlady asked her to leave so her daughter could move in.

“I had lived in North Devon all my life,” he says. “I always rented because it was too expensive for me to buy as a single parent.

“My son, at the time of six years, is autistic. He could see that I was worried, so on my way to school I explained to him that many people want to visit or move here because it is beautiful and people want a better quality of life after Covid.



“I left it at school and on the way home I started crying. It struck me that I couldn’t find a place to live in the place I called home. I posted a comment on Facebook and within an hour I received about 100 comments. It soon grew to 300, so I started a group. It went viral. “

He founded the UK Housing Crisis Group, which gives a voice to residents of rural communities and tourist destinations adversely affected by the demand for holiday and second homes.

A consequence of runaway vacation rentals is the disappearance of basic services – such as garages, post offices and grocery stores – because staff are unavailable, off-season demand is negligible, and vacationers bring in food or have it delivered.

“It’s having a huge impact on doctors, dentists and schools,” Hookway says. “There are so many vacation homes here in North Devon that there aren’t enough children to meet the quotas for some of our small village schools.”

The local economy has been transformed, he says. “The few rents that become available have increased in price. I was paying £ 900 a month for the house, but now you’d be paying around £ 1,400. When you take into account the fact that the living wage, which is what many people earn in North Devon, is around £ 17,290 a year, it is impossible for many people to live here.

“My eldest son is 22 and if he comes home the only way to rent something is to live on a boat.”

st ives airbnb vacation travel - Getty

st ives airbnb vacation travel – Getty

Eventually Hookway managed to find a home. She explains: “I was lucky. Everyone knows me, so I was offered a rented apartment above a private members club. At first I felt like a failure because I’m 40 and had moved from a four bed house with a garden to live in an apartment that hadn’t been furnished since the 1970s. But, in reality, now I consider myself very lucky to have a house in the area, when many do not have one ”.

Similar stories can be found in British tourist hotspots. From the Cotswolds to the Scottish Highlands, from Cornwall to North Yorkshire, residents of villages and small towns are being forced to leave and local services are disappearing.

A few years ago Laugharne, in South West Wales, was not very trendy. I know, because I lived there from 2012 to 2015. Aside from some Dylan Thomas pilgrims and coach trips, there were few visitors and those who stayed used local B & Bs and pubs.

Today, 108 of the 544 families are rented out for holidays, second homes or vacancies. There is no basic medical service and the bus to the nearest clinic is rare and problematic for older residents. School admissions have declined and problems with flies overturning have increased as garbage collection does not coincide with holiday rental change days.

“The impact of vacation rentals and second homes – I refuse to call them homes – on local housing is the main problem for residents right now,” says Roxanne Treacy, mayor of the municipality.

“The locals have been forced to relocate, due to the lack of long-term rents and the massive increase in house prices. Those who are able to buy can’t compete with cash buyers on real estate agent lists, with smaller properties selling out particularly quickly.

airbnb ruined city in the UK - Emma Dee Hookway

airbnb ruined city in the UK – Emma Dee Hookway

“Many of what were traditionally starter homes have been converted into vacation rentals, and long-term rentals are converted into vacation rentals because they pay more. Those who are wealthy enough to buy their second, third, or fourth property prevent locals from buying or renting the first home in their communities.

“People are fed up with some who seem to see Laugharne as their private monopoly game, buying several homes to run as vacation rentals or even leaving them empty. This is a community, not just a part of someone’s wallet. “

What’s the answer? The Welsh Senedd has announced plans to introduce a holiday licensing system and allow local councils to impose quotas. In Laugharne, a local developer has specified in the deeds that the properties cannot be used as vacation rentals.

“We should tax people more to have second homes and run vacation rentals,” Hookway says. “It is extraordinary that during the pandemic, Airbnb owners can apply for a scholarship of £ 10,000 for loss of earnings.”

Airbnb rentals and second homes are part of the same problem. But the former is arguably worse, as it is effectively a mining industry, converting local beauty into an investment for distant shareholders, while destroying that locality, just like a mine or quarry.

There are nearly a million homes in England with no full-time residents: 653,000 empty homes, 253,000 second homes, plus 70,000 properties recently converted to commercial rates as commercial holiday rentals to avoid local council taxes.

No one knows exactly how many properties fall into Airbnb’s unregulated “whole house” market, but advocacy group Action on Empty Homes says “at least 150,000 homes have been sucked out of residential use with the actual total deemed much higher.”

Laugharne Wales Dylan Thomas holiday hotspot on airbnb - Getty

Laugharne Wales Dylan Thomas holiday hotspot on airbnb – Getty

“We are in dire need of homes to meet local housing needs,” says Will McMahon, director of Action on Empty Homes.

“The so-called second homes and Airbnb are nobody’s home. Local communities need new powers to keep homes in residential use and limit the number of second homes and Airbnbs like in Scotland and Wales. So far the British government has done nothing but consult on a licensing program and leaves councils and communities alike powerless to act. “

Airbnb’s revenue was $ 5.99 billion (£ 5.3 billion) in 2021, despite the pandemic. The company recently announced a £ 1.25 million donation to English Heritage. He was contacted for comment but none came.

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