Council flats now used for short stay tourists

50 percent of RTB flats in hands of property companies

Friday, 4th March — By Richard Osley

Julian Fulbrook

Former housing chief Julian Fulbrook

RIGHT-TO-BUY policies and the mushrooming popularity of using homes for Airbnb listings have been blamed for exacerbating Camden’s housing crisis.

Labour councillor Julian Fulbrook told Monday’s scrutiny meeting: “Right-to-buy has accelerated and we’ve got a second wave. So for a time the myth behind right-to-buy was that it will be home ownership for the person in situ. But now of course 50 per cent – in Camden, roughly – of right-to-buy properties are in the hands of development companies and they sub-let to students.”

Cllr Fulbrook, himself a former housing department chief at the Town Hall, added: “The second thing is: Airbnb. Birkbeck [University] has some of the most incredible Airbnb concentrations in the borough around it, possibly in London, possibly in the country. There are acres of sort of empty properties.”

In 2015, a New Journal investigation found how council flats were being used as short-stay alternatives to expensive hotels. Some were being run by council tenants but many more were being operated by companies which had managed to get control of the properties.

After our stories, the council launched its own inquiry into the issue but 90-day regulation has been tough to enforce.

Until the coronavirus pandemic, more money in some cases could be made by renting out a room or a flat to a tourist for a couple of days than the money raised on rent in a week – tilting the balance for landlords seeking the biggest return.

In turn, neighbours said the sense of community was at risk because properties were being used by people passing through for a night rather than laying down roots.

Professor Paul Watt from Birkbeck told Monday’s council meeting that he would support “some clamping down on Airbnb”, adding that people he had interviewed in London for his research had been concerned by “increasing transience”.

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