At the March 2022 full council meeting I requested that Clare County Council would commission a report into the impacts of short term lets on communities across Clare.
First of all, the directors response was positive, and the commitment to get the forward planning section to analyze the data with regards to the quantity of STLs in County Clare once the data from the next census has been delivered was appreciated.
However, I hoped he might consider widening the scope further than just the housing situation, as I’d argue though that to truly understand the impacts of STLs on our communities we need to go much further and deeper than the census, while certainly a part of the work, it is only a single snapshot perspective that shows what proportion of our housing is permanently occupied, or vacant for large parts of the year. I would also point out that we should differentiate between second homes, often used by the owners across the whole year, that may be rented out during the peak season for a month or so, and those full time vacant holiday homes that are operated solely as a business.
To truly understand the impacts of STLs, whether positive or negative, we need to undertake qualitative research alongside the quantitative, to speak with community members, the owners of the properties themselves, local business owners and our own staff members to understand how STLs can impact service delivery.
I also believe we need to take a cross directorate approach and look at a much wider set of terms of reference for this report, for example:
- A much more granular understanding of the market segment,
- What percentage of STLs are owned by people who are simply utilising the summer season to generate some income to offset the cost of their holiday home, and are these houses being used by the owners in the off season and if so, for how long,
- What percentage of STLs are operated as full time businesses, and the percentage of STL owners with a single property versus those with multiple properties,
- What are the drivers behind renting them as STLS as opposed to long term rentals, (ease of entry to the market, lack of regulation and low levels of enforcement, financial), what are the blockages to switching from STLs to LTRs,
- The percentage of these houses that were either owner occupied or long term rentals previously.
- Economic impacts; both negative and positive, direct and indirect.
- An understanding of how much the STL market is valued at in Clare,
- A breakdown of where that economic value is delivered, who owns the these houses, where do they come from, how much of their direct rental income is retained in the local economy, and how much do they contribute directly to the cost of maintaining the public realm and amenities in the county.
- The value of visitors using the STL sector to Clare, we can say it is an important segment of the market, but do we know how important… and look at that value versus the value to the county if these houses were permanently occupied, what is the market value of houses in areas of high demand for STLs against the value of similar properties in those areas with low demand.
- The impact on communities of the reduced availability of residential housing with the negative impact of affordability on the sustainability of these communities, and the knock on impacts to the wider local economy, We also need to understand the sector impact on delivery of local public services, what are the cost/benefits to us as a local authority from the growth of the STL sector, how much do they contribute directly to the cost of maintaining the public realm and amenities in the county.
- The social impact of the growth in STLs on the quality of life and wellbeing of our local communities … when larger percentages of our residential communities switch over to STLs what are the impacts on the permanent householders… noise, traffic, littering, a change in the night time habits of a residential area, security concerns
I would point the director and the forward planning team to a piece of research done by the Scottish government in 2019 called “Research into the impact of short-term lets on communities across Scotland” and I think if we took that as a model we would be doing our communities and ourselves a big service.