STAA and Key Data research reveals empty homes outnumber holiday lets in majority of UK destinations

STAA and Key Data research reveals empty homes outnumber holiday lets in majority of UK destinations

An Oxford Economics report found that in 2021, the short-term let sector brought in £27.7 billion to GDP

Empty homes outnumber holiday lets 

in majority of UK destinations

Holiday lets are often the scapegoat, blamed for hoovering up properties in desirable locations. 

However, analysis of 313 UK local authority areas showed 58% of them actually have more homes sitting vacant long term than holiday lets, according to a study by the Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA) and holiday home data provider Key Data.

This blame game shows a misunderstanding of holiday lets’ value to local communities said the STAA. 

Holiday lets offer more authentic local experiences to guests than hotels, and are responsible for attracting huge amounts of spending to local businesses. Meanwhile, vacant homes might sit empty for years, not benefitting communities in any way, much like unlet second homes, which sit empty most of the year.

Looking at touristic areas, the worst affected is Arun Borough, which includes the popular seaside town of Bognor Regis. There are over 400 long-term empty homes in this local authority, 6.7 times more than the 66 holiday lets in the area.

Even in Wales and Scotland — the scene of some of the most aggressive moves to introduce new regulation and taxes for holiday lets — the numbers of empty homes dwarf the size of the holiday let market. 

Welsh councils like Caerphilly and the valleys of Rhondda Cynon Taf have over 5 times more empty homes than holiday lets, while the Highlands in Scotland have 4.4 times as many.

The biggest difference in raw numbers was in Aberdeen, where there are 4,370 more empty homes than holiday lets which is 4.6 times more. 

These are thousands of properties that bring no value to the local community in Scotland’s third largest city.

Holiday lets bring in huge amounts of revenue for communities, many of which are not well served by hotels. 

An Oxford Economics report found that in 2021, the short-term let sector brought in £27.7 billion to GDP, and supported almost half a million jobs. Despite this, new measures mean that holiday lets can be subject to similar tax premiums as long-term vacant homes. 

There are 330,325 long-term empty homes in England, Scotland and Wales according to latest official figures.

Andy Fenner, CEO of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA), said: “Holiday lets have been taking the blame for the housing crisis for a long time but this research reveals the true picture. 

“We all need somewhere to live and we all need somewhere to work. This research shows that holiday lets are not to blame for the housing crisis, but rather the blame lies with councils allowing homes to sit idle. 

"Holiday lets create much-needed jobs in communities up and down the country, empty homes produce nothing. 

"Most councils are sitting on so many long-term empty homes that they eclipse the numbers of holiday lets in their area. 

"This is where policymakers should be looking to solve the housing crisis, not scapegoating an industry responsible for jobs and investment in areas that often have nothing else.

“This is rampant hypocrisy when councils across the UK are being encouraged to strangle this industry with council tax surcharges, planning requirements and licensing schemes. 

"Empty homes benefit no one, and can even have negative effects on neighbours and local communities when left unattended and in disrepair, while short-term lets are a vibrant part of our tourist industry, bringing in visitors from around the world," he said.

“The way people are being demonised for letting out their homes to families who want to enjoy a holiday in the UK is outrageous, especially while empty homes are barely talked about as a problem. 

"The housing crisis is a complex issue, and it cannot be solved overnight, but making use of our existing housing stock would be a great place to start. 

“Tourism is something we should be proud of and encourage. This country has amazing cities, beautiful countryside and world class visitor attractions. 

"Holiday lets allow people to explore all that this country has to offer. We should be helping them and protecting the thousands of jobs they support.”