When I called to request a reservation a few days after returning from schools next month, its owners told me they had, reluctantly, made the decision to close and move on.
The pandemic is partly to blame, preventing too many regulars besides me from staying for most of the 18 months, but there is another factor – an explosion in the number of second homes rented on Airbnb.
The result is a couple who worked hard to start a business, paid the rates and taxes demanded of them, and provided an exemplary level of customer service that has kept customers coming back year after year. no choice but to give up.
Meanwhile, the income they used to live on instead goes into the back pockets of people wealthy enough to own properties where they don’t actually live, and I would bet my own home that most of it never goes to tax.
It is simply outrageous that legitimate businesses like this guesthouse go bankrupt because what amounts to an underground economy is depleting their livelihoods.
And that is part of the seriously damaging effect that the proliferation of second homes is having on our region, particularly in North Yorkshire.
Communities as well as livelihoods are being emptied by properties that sit empty for months every year – or are used to cash in on the stay boom that restrictions on overseas travel have sparked.
They exacerbate the housing shortage in rural areas, especially affordable housing for young people who have no choice but to move to find housing. This depletes the vitality of too many places and makes it even more difficult for legitimate vacation home owners to make a living.
Businesses in North and East Yorkshire that depend on tourism, particularly on the coast, have taken a heavy hit because of Covid. Besides my favorite Whitby guesthouse, I know others in Scarborough and Bridlington who have clung to the skins of their teeth as their incomes plummet due to lockdowns and overnight bans
In such a context, it is intolerable that they are faced with unfair competition from Airbnb properties that drive down prices and contribute virtually nothing to the chessboard that has supported small businesses.
If this continues unchecked, it could create a crisis for many Yorkshire tourism businesses – especially small independent ones like couple-run guest houses – as well as for rural towns and villages.
We only have to look to the south of the country to see what could all too easily happen here. Last week, the local authority in Salcombe, Devon, announced that it was considering banning the sale of properties as second homes because the town is dangerously short of housing for locals.
And more than a quarter of properties in Cornwall are now second homes, putting such pressure on the housing stock that young doctors recruited to work at local hospitals cannot find rental accommodation within a 30 mile radius. . Things have gotten so bad, with NHS staff resorting to life in caravans because there is nowhere to go, that the Bishop of Truro spoke out last month on the devastating effect of the ownership of a secondary residence on the communities.
It’s unthinkable that North Yorkshire would follow the same path, but a quick glance at Airbnb shows a proliferation of properties on offer. This means increased competition for hotels and guest houses and these properties are not available as housing for the people we rely on to run our hospitals, nursing homes or schools.
We cannot just let this continue. The North Yorkshire Rural Commission last month asked for powers to levy a levy on second homes as part of its far-reaching report. This must be done, for the good of towns and villages where young people cannot afford to live, but the action of regional authorities is not enough.
It’s time to crack down on the whole Airbnb phenomenon which is a license to print untaxed money for second home owners. The government needs to empower the Inland Revenue to track down rental property owners and make sure they pay taxes and commercial rates on what they earn. This may convince many people to think again about reducing the costs of people whose livelihoods depend on visitors and, instead of making a profit by tapping into the vacation market, making properties available to those who do. need a place to live.
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