City councillors push for tougher regulation of so-called ‘party flats’ in Liverpool – accommodation offering short lets to tourists. Tony McDonough reports
City councillors in Liverpool are seeking a crackdown on apartments in the city used as short-let accommodation for tourists.
Labour councillors Nick Small, Christine Banks, Laura Robertson-Collins, James Roberts, Lena Simic and Billy Marratt represent wards in the city centre, Anfield and Greenbank areas of Liverpool.
They have submitted a motion to the council’s Strategic Development and Housing Committee, which meets on Thursday, September 1. It calls for the implementation of a Tourist Accommodation Registration Scheme. This is currently being considered by the Government for England.
However, business leader Frank McKenna, chief executive of Downtown in Business, has accused them of making life harder for hospitality businesses that are already fighting for survival.
Liverpool city region’s visitor economy has been one of its economic success stories over the past decade or so. Pre-pandemic the visitor economy was worth £5bn a year. This plummeted during COVID-19 but a figure of £3.58bn for 2021 shows the sector is recovering strongly.
Conferences and events at the ACC Liverpool complex are a big driver of visitor numbers. However, Liverpool also has a strong reputation as a party town and most weekends of the year its hotels are bulging with revellers. Liverpool and Everton FC also attract significant numbers of people to the city around matchdays.
Large groups, such as stag and hen parties, find it more cost-effective to rent an apartment for a weekend. This has led to a surge in short-let apartments, or Airbnb-style accommodation, in and around the city centre.
While this is a lucrative market for property owners it can prove disruptive for local people and businesses close by. Cllr Small told the Liverpool Echo he and his fellow councillors are calling for the “strongest possible powers to manage short-term lets”.
Their motion states: “This select committee notes the opportunities to the visitor economy from a sharing economy and the increase in choice for visitors.
“But it believes, based on local evidence in Liverpool, particularly in the city centre, Anfield and Greenbank areas, that there needs to be stronger and better regulation in force to manage the challenges of negative impacts of this in communities with high concentrations of Airbnb-style accommodation.
“This includes a lack of data available for councils and other agencies to enforce regulations around environmental health, nuisance and fire safety, a lack of awareness of existing regulations amongst operators and things such as mortgage and tenancy agreements and negative community impacts like anti-social behaviour, such as the renting of properties as party flats.
“Negative impact of the local housing market with family homes changed to short-terms lets and people being denied access to affordable housing.”
Mr McKenna hit back at the councillors on Twitter. He posted: “With the cost of living crisis, uncapped energy bill hikes, and the hospitality sector in crisis, it’s good to see local Labour councillors doing what they can to support the city’s most important sector and our visitor economy.
“The sector has more red tape, bureaucracy and regulation as it is. Have the council done an economic impact study on the cash these targeted establishments contribute to the economy – and the likely impact on investment if these proposals are adopted?”