Airbnb ruined my village

airbnb woolacombe village town britain gite travel vacation

airbnb woolacombe village town britain gite travel vacation

When I load the Airbnb homepage to check rentals in North Cornwall, it tells me I can earn up to £1,622 per month in accommodation where I live. Given skyrocketing energy bills and rampant inflation, that’s tempting. I live on a farm near Pendle Hill in Lancashire. It’s remote and windswept, but that might appeal to a city dweller after some gritty weather up north.

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

In Braunton, North Devon, the site boasts “over 1,000” vacation rentals. That seems huge for a village of about 7,000 people. But the rate in other bathing establishments is even higher. Recent research by campaign group Inside Airbnb found that one in 67 coastal homes nationwide 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 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 own daughter could move in.

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

“My son, then six years old, has autism. He could see that I was worried so on the way to school I explained to him that a lot of people want to visit or move here because it’s beautiful and people want a better quality of life after Covid.



“I dropped him off at school and when I got home I started crying. It dawned on me that I couldn’t find anywhere to live in the place I called home. I I posted a comment on Facebook and within an hour I had about 100 comments. That quickly grew to 300, so I started a group. It went viral.”

She founded the UK Housing Crisis Group, which gives voice to residents of rural communities and holiday destinations negatively affected by demand for holiday properties and second homes.

One of the consequences of uncontrolled seasonal rentals is the disappearance of basic services – such as garages, post offices and grocery stores – as staff are unavailable, off-season demand is negligible and vacationers bring or have food delivered. .

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

The local economy has transformed, she says. “The few rentals that become available have exploded in price. I was paying £900 a month for the house, but now you would pay around £1,400. When you take into account that the living wage – what many people in North Devon earn – is around £17,290 a year, it makes life here impossible for many people.

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

st ives airbnb travel vacation - Getty

st ives airbnb travel vacation – Getty

In the end, Hookway managed to find a home. She explains: “I was lucky. Everyone knows me, so I was offered an apartment to rent above a private club. At first I felt like a failure because I’m in my 40s and had moved from a four-bedroom house with a garden to living in an apartment that hasn’t been decorated since the 1970s. But, in fact, I now consider myself very lucky to have a home in the area, when so many people don’t”.

Similar stories can be found in UK tourism hotspots. From the Cotswolds to the Scottish Highlands, from Cornwall to North Yorkshire, people in 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 fashionable. I know this because I lived there from 2012 to 2015. Other than a few Dylan Thomas pilgrims and coach trips there were few visitors and those who stayed used the local B&Bs and pubs.

Today, 108 of the 544 households are either seasonal rentals, second homes or empty. There is no GP service and the bus to the nearest practice is infrequent and problematic for older residents. School admissions have plummeted and fly tipping issues have increased as garbage collection does not coincide with vacation rental changeover days.

“The impact of vacation rentals and second homes – I refuse to call them homes – on local housing is the biggest issue for residents right now,” says Township Mayor Roxanne Treacy.

“Residents have been forced to move, due to the lack of long-term rentals and the massive increase in property prices. Those who are able to buy cannot compete with the cash buyers listed on listings from real estate agents, with small properties being acquired particularly quickly.

Airbnb Ruined Cities UK - Emma Dee Hookway

Airbnb Ruined Cities UK – Emma Dee Hookway

“A lot of what were traditionally starter homes have been turned into vacation rentals and long-term rentals are being converted into vacation rentals because they pay more. Those who are wealthy enough to buy a second, third or fourth property prevent residents from buying or renting their first home in their own community.

“People are fed up with some who seem to see Laugharne as their own private Monopoly game, buying multiple houses to rent out on vacation or even leaving empty. It’s a community, not just a part of someone’s wallet.

What is the answer? Welshman Senedd has announced plans to introduce a licensing system for holiday rentals and allow local councils to impose quotas. In Laugharne, a local developer has clarified in the title deeds that the properties cannot be used as vacation rentals.

“We should be taxing people more for having second homes and vacation rentals,” Hookway says. “It is extraordinary that during the pandemic Airbnb owners have been able to claim £10,000 in scholarships for loss of profit.”

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

There are nearly a million homes in England without full-time residents – 653,000 vacant homes, 253,000 second homes, plus 70,000 properties recently switched to business rates as commercial vacations to avoid local council tax.

No one knows exactly how many properties are on Airbnb’s unregulated “whole house” market, but pressure group Action on Empty Homes claims that “at least 150,000 homes have been taken out of residential use, the true total being much higher”.

Laugharne Wales Dylan Thomas airbnb vacation hotspots - Getty

Laugharne Wales Dylan Thomas airbnb vacation hotspots – Getty

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

“The so-called second homes and Airbnbs do not house anyone. Local communities need new powers to keep homes for residential use and limit the number of second homes and Airbnbs like in Scotland and Wales. So far the English government has done nothing but consult on a licensing system and leave councils and communities powerless to act.”

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

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