The problems presented by short-term lets in Westminster is something I have been highlighting for several years. What was once seen as a convenient and harmless way for householders to supplement their income has now become a booming pillar of the gig economy, thanks to platforms like Airbnb. Indeed, from 2015 to 2017, Westminster saw a 126 per cent increase in Airbnb lettings.
The high resident turnover that short let platforms facilitate has led to the erosion of safety, security and community cohesion in several Westminster neighbourhoods and apartment blocks. Accordingly, I, alongside Cllr Heather Acton and Hyde Park residents, have consistently lobbied successive housing ministers for a much more tailored policy approach that takes into account the unique challenges found here in central London.
A meeting between my office, Council officers and officials from Ministry of Housing took place in April and will hopefully be the first in a series. Despite acknowledging its limits, the ministry’s position at present advocates self-regulation of the sector. More encouragingly, officials did express a willingness to consider a fresh application for exemption for certain parts of Westminster from short let regulations.
As I say, despite all our determined work in this area the government remains adamant that the Council has adequate power to take enforcement action against those who flout the 90-night letting limit, but the lack of cooperation thus far on data sharing from many industry players has made identifying problem-homeowners a source of great frustration. Without their willingness to be part of the solution, the government has to consider creating a framework under which data sharing is mandatory that allows the Council a far greater chance to enforce the 90-night limit without the need for further regulation. Just this week I met with a group of Westminster-based entrepreneurs who are working on a solution to this very problem which I think holds exciting possibilities and was quick to recommend to the housing minister, and will continue to explore in the coming months.
The Council and I continue our efforts to protect our community from the worst effects of short lets.