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Planning enforcement at the time of Airbnb

Planning enforcement at the time of Airbnb

Francesco Mellino 02 May 2017
Airbnb, a business that enables people to rent out their homes (or a room within them), has enjoyed global success since it was founded in San Francisco in 2008. With over three million listings worldwide across more than 65,000 cities, the company is among the giants of the sharing economy and one of the fastest-growing actors in the hospitality sector. The legal background for short-term accommodation in London is, briefly, as follows. Until 25 May 2015, the use of property for temporary sleeping accommodation for fewer than 90 days per year without planning permission was prohibited[1]. From May 26 2015, the restrictions on short-term accommodation in London were relaxed[2], allowing Londoners to rent out their properties, which must be liable to pay Council Tax, for temporary sleeping accommodation for fewer than 90 nights per calendar year without requiring planning permission. The criticism that Airbnb has received, mostly in larger cities in Europe and the US, focuses on whether allowing dwellings to be rented out for short-term accommodation encourages an efficient use of the housing stock or has an unsustainable impact on the availability of properties for long-term rent. This tension is clear in how new policy was designed to regulate, not prohibit, this activity. However, no details were set out regarding how local authorities were expected to enforce the 90-nights-limit. Analysis of data of Airbnb listings[3]  suggests that the change in legislation in May 2015 had a negligible impact on existing trends in London. There were just almost 54,000 listings in London in January 2017, up from 13,000 as of December 2013, but the rate of this increase has been constant since May 2014 (Figure 1). Interestingly, the average nominal price per night of a listing in London has decreased from £190 in May 2014 to £121 in January 2017, hinting that the growth in the number of listings has increased competition and driven down prices rather than meeting pent-up demand for short-term accommodation. Figure 1: Number of Airbnb listings and average price per night in London (selected dates, Dec 13 – Jan 2017) Source: Lichfields analysis of tomslee.net data The most controversial type of Airbnb listings are those for entire homes, as they involve properties that critics argue should be available for long-term rent. The analysis shows that, as the number of listings increased over time, the proportion of entire homes being rented out has remained largely stable at around 51% of all listings, once again apparently unfettered by the change in legislation in May 2015 (Figure 2). The proportion of shared rooms available for rent on Airbnb stood at 1% across the period of analysis. Figure 2: Proportion of Airbnb listings by type (selected dates, Dec 13 – Jan 2017) Source: Lichfields analysis of tomslee.net data Are times a-changing? Enabling emerging sectors, such as short-term accommodation, to grow sustainably within the urban fabric is a crucial aspect of city planning. When this requires a regulatory framework, its introduction should be accompanied by the capacity of adequately-resourced local authorities to enforce it. The fact that trends in the analysis have remained unchanged following changes to legislation suggests that enforcement may not have been as timely. From January 2017, Airbnb has announced that it would only allow its hosts in Greater London to rent out their homes for up to 90 days (unless they confirm that they have planning permission to do otherwise and agree that some of their data would be shared with the relevant local authority). This proactive move would partially ease the enforcement process for local authorities, but may not be enough in itself – a host could simply list a property on a different short-term accommodation platform once the 90-night limit on Airbnb has been reached. A sector-wide approach is needed to avoid this possibility. Ultimately, it will be necessary to monitor whether Airbnb’s co-operation and the reduction in price over time will have an impact on listing numbers as well as on the proportion of entire homes being rented out in London before assessing whether this solution could be rolled out to the entire sector.   This article was originally published on the April-June 2017 issue of Planning in London.   [1] Section 25 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1973 (as amended) deems the change of use from residential premises to temporary sleeping accommodation as a material change of use, therefore requiring planning permission. [2] Deregulation Act 2015: Sections 44 and 45: Short-term use of London accommodation: relaxation of restrictions and power to relax restrictions. [3] Data publicly available at tomslee.net Image credit: Airbnb  

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GENDER GAP/GDP

GENDER GAP/GDP

Francesco Mellino 03 Oct 2016
It started as a seemingly innocuous matter of curiosity in the NLP office – a pub quiz question, almost[1]: What share of the global economic output is produced in the world’s 10 richest countries? Has this increased or decreased in the last 50 years? Some guesses were made so we looked at the data to check if anyone was right (no one was, although this was blamed on the data being patchy).For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen[2].However, still thinking about interesting trends in the world’s 10 richest countries, while admittedly being influenced by the appointment of a new UK Prime Minister and one of the candidates in the upcoming US elections, another question came up in conversation: How many of the world’s 10 richest countries have been governed by a female political leader? Not many, we guessed. Then we thought that it would be nice, albeit depressing, to visualise just how many. Courtesy of our outstanding (and patient) Graphics team, the resulting infographic was used as NLP’s submission to the 2016 Information Is Beautiful Awards, where it was included in the longlist. You can see it below. It’s an A1 poster: you may want to click here to see a larger version. Some interesting findings on the left-hand side of the infographic, in no particular order: The share of the world’s economy produced in the 10 richest countries has decreased over the years – from 87% in 1960 to 66% in 2015. We found this was still a substantial figure, but an encouraging one. 9 out of the 10 richest countries in 1960 are still in the top 10 in 2015 – Russia (then, the USSR) lost its spot, Brazil entered – but there has been plenty of movement with the likes of Mexico and Spain making an appearance in the chart over the years. Comparing the share of the world’s GDP to the share of the world’s population in the group of the 10 richest countries leads to very inconsistent results. When China and India are in the group, the ratio seem fairly balanced (e.g. in 2015 the group accounts for 66% of the world’s GDP and 50% of the world’s population); when they aren’t, the concentration of global wealth in not-highly-populated countries appears stark (e.g. in 1990 73% of the world’s GDP was produced by 19% of the world’s population). Some remarks on the right-hand side: The world’s richest economies have a very poor record of appointing female leaders. Out of the 143 changes in leadership[3] that happened in these countries between 1960 and 2015 (only when they were among the 10 richest in the world), just 8 involved a female leader. Over the 550 years of analysis, female leaders have governed for fewer than 47 years. This is a remarkably bad ratio of 8 years of female leadership for every 92 of male leaders for a world population, despite women having consistently made up around or slightly less than 50% of the world’s population since 1960[4]. The number of changes in political leaders does not correlate with the number of female leaders – we were not expecting it would, but it was worth checking: whenever there is a change of leader, one would expect that the newly appointed one has the same chances of being male or female. However, the countries that change political leaders most often, Japan and Italy, have never had a female leader. Gender equality is down to many things, but chance is not one of them. In conclusion, our analysis shows that the world is a relatively less unequal place in terms of wealth (although we appreciate we did not look into individuals’ wealth, but that of countries). And while there have been improvements in gender equality for a great number of metrics in recent years, we thought it was important to show that we still have a long way to go. [1] We do attend rather geeky pub quizzes, but aren’t all pub quizzes that are worth attending geeky?[2] Well spotted, galactic hitchhikers.[3] By “change in leader”, it was considered the instance in which a President/Prime Minister replaces another. This does not always correspond to a change in Government.[4] World Bank, Databank, Gender Statistics. For reference, the world’s population female-to-male ratio was 49.5:50.5 in 2015 and 50:50 in 1960.  

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