HomeBussinessIn the dark on plans for short-term letting

In the dark on plans for short-term letting

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When it comes to short-term letting, balance has proven an elusive target for the Government — between a tourism industry whose success is critical for the economy and a housing crisis that has come to define the administration despite its multiple efforts to address it.

This is not a uniquely Irish problem. Ireland is just one of many countries trying to recalibrate that balance, with the Government of the view that as many as 12,000 of the 30,000-odd places advertised on various short-term holiday letting sites like Airbnb, Booking.com and Expedia are suitable for longer-term rental.

How to make them available is the conundrum.

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The rules are already fairly rigorous concerning properties in the growing number of rent pressure zones. Since 2019, anyone in these 60 areas around the State who is letting property for periods of up to 14 days at a time and, in the case of their homes, for more than 90 days a year needs planning permission.

Now the Government is bringing new legislation to Cabinet that will put in place a mandatory national digital registration scheme for all short-term lets alongside even tighter planning rules with which anyone looking to offer short-term lets will have to comply.

The national registration scheme has almost universal buy-in across the sector on the basis that it will bring greater transparency to the industry.

But there is growing concern about the shape of any new planning restrictions. And the cloak of secrecy imposed by the Government on what these will be has not helped.

Industry groups like Airbnb argue that any new planning controls will have to be sufficiently nuanced to allow for differences between many rural areas with no real housing pressure and busier locations — places like Kinsale and Killarney for instance.

Any new rules also need to distinguish between properties that can genuinely return to the long-term rental market and others — like family holiday homes — that won’t be available for that sector regardless but do provide options for tourists.

But keeping people in the dark as the Government has been doing seems a very odd way of looking for buy-in on a policy that will inevitably reduce some landlords’ income. If the Government is sure its new rules have the balance right, publish them and let landlords plan.

And if they are not fit for purpose, at least it will allow for consultation that really should have taken place some time ago given the plans are now more than two years in the making.

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