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Airbnb booms by 81% in Britain, with questions about its future

By Oliver Smith 12 September 2017
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In Britain there are now 168,000 separate UK listings on Airbnb.

That’s a whopping four times as many listings as there are hotels in the country.

And 55% of all its listings are entire properties, rather than spare rooms to rent.

In a sign of Airbnb’s booming popularity 6m people used the platform in the UK last year, according to Airbnb’s UK Insights Report, an 81% jump on the previous year.

We often look to innovation like this for its benefits – a little extra cash earned, a cheaper deal on accommodation for those who need it.

But Airbnb’s impact is a huge change to the property market, and its boons must be weighed up alongside its more obvious negative impacts.

Bad news for locals?

In the US and the UK politicians have long argued that apartments, which were once for long-term rentals, are now being priced up and converted into short-term Airbnbs.

You may even know renters who’ve been forced to live in Airbnbs while they look for a permanent home that fits their needs (we certainly do).

But in turn, studies have shown that as Airbnb popularity grows rental prices for locals become less and less affordable.

Meanwhile the prices of Airbnbs in some cities have been rising, and residents in places like Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris have now turned against the company with mass protests.

Wrap all this up with the fact that Airbnb’s British landlords have previously been outed for “avoiding taxes”, and the overall economic benefits of the sharing economy darling seem far from rosy indeed.

What does this mean for you?

Yes Airbnb will empower you to be better off, but only if you’re a homeowner. For the rest of society is spells for higher rents which make it even more difficult to save to get on the property ladder.

Even homeowners however, may soon find that that ‘cheap’ Airbnb you once chose over a hotel, is far less of a bargain than it once was.

And for everyone? A future that makes it worthwhile for Brits to own more than one home, an incentive that will undoubtedly put pressure on areas already suffering a housing shortage.

Perhaps this is a sign of Airbnb, and the world it has created, maturing. As regulations catch up and prices rise, it won’t be able to maintain the startup mentality of ‘do things differently’.

It was a dream to imagine a country where rooms could be let for £50 a night, within an established, in-demand property market. But Airbnb’s rampant growth couldn’t go on forever without some bumps along the road.

This darling of the ‘sharing economy’ won’t disappear overnight, but in the future, it won’t look like the company we all know and love today.

Read more: Does Airbnb herald the death of the hotel?

Read more: Half of Airbnb’s in London are professional landlords “avoiding taxes”