MAJOR PROBLEM There are 249 properties in the Westport area listed on Airbnb.
Council admit website is adding to county’s housing shortage
THERE are more than 12 times more properties currently available for short-term lets on Airbnb than there are available for long-term rent in Mayo.
An analysis found that there were over 300 properties in the county listed on Airbnb. The true figure is likely to be significantly higher as the website does not display figures higher than 300 for any particular county.
The figures were disclosed in the Irish Independent by Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan.
In contrast, there are 24 properties in Mayo available for long-term leasing on property website Daft.ie.
A search conducted by The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) found there were 249 properties listed on Airbnb after searching for ‘Westport’. The west Mayo town currently has just two properties available to rent on Daft.ie.
Founded in 2008, Airbnb allows property owners to rent out beds or entire properties as short-term leases. Mayo County Council was among eleven local authorities that took no action against any property owners for illegally letting their homes to holidaymakers on Airbnb last year.
Under the current rules, properties in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) should not be rented out for more than 90 days per year on letting websites such as Airbnb without planning permission. Mayo is currently not designated as an RPZ.
‘A major problem’
WESTPORT-BASED county councillor Peter Flynn described the number of Airbnbs in the area as ‘a major problem’.
“With my accountancy hat on I would recommend every time for people who own a second home to opt for the Airbnb option as it makes much more sense financially than long-term letting. However, with my council hat on I can see a major problem with so many locations in our town centre converted to Airbnb,” he told The Mayo News.
“Not only are you impacting on people looking to live in the area but critically it means fewer people are living in our town centres. This also impacts on residents who have to live beside locations where people are out late and not too worried about neighbours.
“I estimate in Westport alone there are over 300 apartments and houses which were former long-term lets and are now Airbnb. This equates to at least 600 potential residents displaced out of town. When you take people out of a town centre you remove the soul of a town and that is a real concern.”
The Fine Gael councillor said that Airbnbs were a ‘major issue’ for other tourist towns.
“The responsibility for tackling this is with Government as there isn’t a single thing local councils can do to change this. This is not just about Airbnb, it is also about the way we encourage people with second homes to move back to long-term letting and right now we are a long way from that situation.”
Director Services for Housing with Mayo County Council Tom Gilligan said that there was ‘no doubt’ that Airbnb was contributing to the county’s housing shortage.
“On occasion, the council has received complaints from the public, regarding Airbnb lettings, however the detail provided from the public wasn’t granular enough to allow for an appropriate follow-up,” Mr Gilligan said in an email to The Mayo News.
Galway, Clare, Donegal and Kerry also had over 300 hundred properties listed on Airbnb, several multiples of the number of properties available for long-term leasing in those counties.
Fifteen counties issued warning letters to landlords or launched investigations on properties which are suspected of being rented out for longer than the permitted period.
Local authorities in Galway issued four warning letters and commenced five investigations into landlords who were letting their properties for longer than 90 days. The county currently has 43 properties to rent on Daft.ie.
IN January 2023 the government is to introduce new regulations on short-term lettings that will compel homeowners to provide proof of planning permission to do so. They will also be obliged to register with Fáilte Ireland.
Short-term letting platforms will also face fines if they are found to have displayed a non-compliant property.
The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has previously said that regulations around short-term lets are ‘a very difficult area to effectively enforce’.
In a response to a parliamentary question, Junior Minister for Housing Peter Burke said: “Persons letting properties in a Rent Pressure Zone which are not their principal private residence are required to apply for change of use planning permission, unless the property already has a specific planning permission to be used for tourism or short-term letting purposes.”
At the time of going to print, Airbnb has not responded to a request from this newspaper regarding the exact number of Mayo properties listed on its website.