A Scottish Parliament committee has voted in favour of proposals to introduce a licensing system for short-term lets, as well as plans for “control areas” to limit their spread.
However, some MSPs on the Local Government Committee raised concerns that bed and breakfast properties would be included in the licensing system alongside Airbnb-style self-catering accommodation.
The committee voted in favour of the licensing system by four to three, with another vote in favour of the control areas going ahead by six to one.
Appearing at the committee on Wednesday, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said the regime would not be “onerous” for operators, who would be required to pay around £300 per premises for a three-year licence.
Discussing the need to include bed and breakfasts, he said: “It may well be that short-term let operators try to prove that they are a bed and breakfast – trying to get around the law by, for example, providing breakfast boxes and saying they are a traditional bed and breakfast building.”
Stewart said the Scottish Government had listened to concerns from the tourism industry, delaying the implementation of the plans until 2023 so hosts have longer to prepare.
Independent MSP Andy Wightman has long campaigned for tighter curbs on short-term lets in Edinburgh, but he voted against both aspects of the Scottish Government’s proposals.
He said it is “fundamentally wrong” that ministers will have to give consent to the control areas, arguing local authorities should have the final say.
On the licensing system, he said: “When we’re making law, we need to be very, very careful to get it right.
“I am distressed by the fact that I never contemplated or intended that bed and breakfasts would be subject to a licensing regime, the same as other home-sharing platforms.
“I am also rather distressed at the fact that they themselves appear to have believed that bed and breakfasts would not be included.”
Along with Wightman, Conservative MSPs Jeremy Balfour and Alexander Stewart also voted against the licensing system.
Scottish Labour MSP Sarah Boyack voted in favour of both government proposals.
She said the powers for control areas are needed “urgently”, adding: “If we just took Edinburgh alone, 10% of our housing stock has been lost to short-term lets.
“That is 14,000 homes removed from long-term residential use – that’s led to massive increase in rents, exacerbated the housing shortage for those who want to live and work in our city, and it’s added to the distances people have to commute.”
The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) later voiced disappointment at the outcome of the vote.
It stated: “The STA has in principle been supportive of legislation, shaped by the industry, for regulation of the short-term lets sector, however the mechanisms outlined within the proposed legislation as they stand could have a detrimental effect on much of the sector.
“Today’s decision may now result in business owners operating in the self-catering, B&B sectors and Airbnb hosts electing to close their doors once the legislation is enforced.”