Published: 05:00, 09 October 2021
Urgent action is needed to stop the "damaging" impact Airbnbs are having on a popular coastal spot, locals claim.
Residents, business owners and long-term renters warn the huge growth in people buying properties in Thanet specifically for holiday lets is "killing the community".
They claim that people from the area are having to move away due to the lack of long-term rental homes or the significant costs involved.
There are currently more than 300 Airbnbs available in Margate - compared to just 15 rental properties advertised on Rightmove.
Meanwhile, in Tonbridge, which at 11 has the fewest "entire property" Airbnbs in Kent, there are 36 homes available to rent.
The issue has been highlighted in a motion due to be put forward by Margate councillor Rob Yates to Thanet District Council next week.
In it he calls for rules to be introduced to tackle the "serious issue", including restricting occupied nights for entire property Airbnb rentals to 90 per year.
Such measures were introduced in Greater London five years ago to free up much-needed housing stock.
Cllr Yates says unless something similar is done in Thanet, people from the area will no longer be able to find a long-term place to rent and will have to move away.
"Someone wanting to rent out their spare room for Airbnb is not a problem; it's people buying properties and then renting the whole thing out on Airbnb," he said.
"They aren't part of the Margate community, they are using Margate as an investment opportunity."
Cllr Yates warns Thanet will end up like Newquay, with empty properties in the towns for half of the year.
He also says as businesses in the thriving towns grow, more staff are needed, yet there are less places for them to live.
In his motion - which he says has won support from everyone he has spoken to - he highlights the concern raised by residents around the growth in Airbnbs, especially in relation to the reduction in long-term rentable properties.
"We welcome the majority of visitors to Thanet, who make an important contribution to our economy, but we hear residents’ concerns and wish to take action to control this serious issue, which is damaging our community and damaging the reputation of Airbnb," he said.
"This council recognises that it currently does not possess the powers to intervene and regulate these properties, and that this is a problem faced by many local authorities across the country."
In the motion, he asks that planning restrictions affecting short-term rentals be introduced, such as change-of-use regulations that are required in London to turn a property into an Airbnb.
He also asks that the leader of Thanet council, Cllr Ash Ashbee, write to Marie Lorimer, the UK public policy manager at Airbnb, to request a meeting and seek to introduce a 90-day annual limit for entire home rentals in Thanet within the platform.
Cllr Yates says the competition for long-term renters is too much and something needs to be done.
Margate Arts Club recently sparked the debate on its Instagram page by posting "Airbnb is killing our community", which won support from business owners and residents, including tenants who commented on how hard it is to find somewhere to rent.
The club says the effects of buying properties for the sole purpose of letting them as a holiday home is devastating to communities and independent businesses.
"Holiday lets force the housing prices/rent up and full-time residents out," it stated.
"We don't want dead zones or a seasonal town. Berlin and Barcelona have felt the devastating affects of Airbnb and passed legislation to curb it.
"It's really sad to see friends, creatives and locals who have helped make this town become so amazing displaced.
"When the winter hits, business owners rely on people who permanently live in the area to support them. If the community has moved on, these businesses will go also.
"What's the point of the Airbnbs if the cultural infrastructure has been forced on to the next 'cool'/rundown place anyway?"
A study by Visit Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University showed the number of Airbnb properties in Thanet increased by 450% between 2016 and 2019.
"When the winter hits, business owners rely on people who permanently live in the area to support them..."
Searches on the Airbnb website show there are currently more than 300 "entire place" stays available in Margate, compared to 230 in Broadstairs and 195 in Ramsgate.
Cllr Yates's motion will be discussed at a full council meeting on Thursday at 7pm.
A spokesman for Airbnb said: “Airbnb is built on the foundation of helping people afford their homes and making communities stronger and we have reached out to Thanet Council to offer our support.
"Across the UK, the majority of Hosts share a space in their own home and nearly a third of UK Hosts say that the additional income is an economic lifeline. We take housing concerns seriously and have called for a nationwide registration system to better understand the impact of short-term letting activity on local areas, and an update to planning guidance to empower local authorities.”