Belfast Telegraph

Belfast 'is not yet Barcelona' despite rise of Airbnb

George Best’s childhood home
George Best’s childhood home

By Mark McConville

Nearly 70% of Belfast rentals available through website Airbnb are for entire homes, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal - sparking fears about the availability of homes for longer-term rental.

Figures compiled by AirDNA, which analyses Airbnb market trends in Belfast, Londonderry, Antrim and Co Down, found 2,996 properties listed online during December.

The majority of rentals were located in the Greater Belfast area with 1,512 available while there were 1,013 in Co Down, 381 in Derry and 90 in Antrim.

And 67% of rentals in Belfast were entire homes, with 32% made up of private rooms and the remaining 1% shared rooms.

Other figures revealed by Airbnb said hosts in Northern Ireland earned more than £16m last year.

Guest spending was estimated at more than £59m, while the total direct economic impact was said to be around £75m.

In July Belfast City Council said it was reviewing the effect of holiday rental websites such as Airbnb and their impact on the availability of accommodation.

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A council spokesman said that members of the council's planning committee agreed at its meeting in September to "increase awareness of the issues around short-term holiday lets by publishing planning guidance on the council's website".

"Members also agreed to increase collaboration with Tourism NI, who regulate all tourist accommodation," they added.

Alliance councillor Kate Nicholl said that she was happy with the outcome of that meeting and that Belfast is "not Barcelona yet", where concerns have grown over the proliferation of Airbnb rentals.

"We were conscious of the fact that more Airbnbs were popping up and we wanted to understand if the council had a role in monitoring this and if there should be a cap," she said.

"I was contacted by a number of constituents who were very concerned by the impact Airbnb was having in their areas. People were concerned given the shortage of housing and we know there is demand for housing in city centre.

"There were also people who use this as an income and it is part of the tourism feature so it was really how we balance it.

"I was happy with the outcome at the time and we monitor and work with Tourism NI to make sure people are aware of the planning regulations. We're not Barcelona yet, where millions are coming and there's no room at all."

The number of active rentals in Belfast has also continued to rise, with 15% more lets available in the third quarter of 2019 (2,011) than at the same period the previous year (1,738). This includes George Best's childhood home at 16 Burren Way.

In the city, 57% of rentals were available full-time while this figure sat at 58% for Co Down, 47% in Derry and just 38% in Antrim.

Thomas O'Doherty, partner at estate agents Simon Brien Residential, said that with more short-term rentals popping up it does "put pressure on longer-term rental opportunities due to less supply".

"There are more people wanting to rent now than previously," he added.

"Many apartment developments in Belfast restrict short-term lettings because they don't want apartments to be like a hotel.

"They don't mind three-to-six month terms but wouldn't want a situation where a new person is moving in every second night.

"If someone is buying an apartment, they would need to check with their development if short-term lets are allowed. In the lease you must ask the management company for permission and a lot of them have restricted this."

Mr O'Doherty added house prices were up by around 4% in the last year and he estimated rental prices to have shot up by around 20% over the last four years. He said that the upside of this was that "it does put an onus on the landlord to deliver a high-quality apartment or house, which is better for tenants".

Belfast Telegraph