The number of Airbnbs in Cornwall compared to long-term rentals

St Ives in Cornwall
St Ives, in Cornwall, is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit in Cornwall Credit: PA

It’s coming to the end of that time of year when tourists flock to the South West, filling accommodation across Cornwall and Devon.

Holiday rentals are available in the tens of thousands, but they are limiting the availability of long-term properties for desperate locals.

According to data from holiday rental research firm AirDNA, there were 20,688 active Airbnb and Vbro rentals in Cornwall as of August 2022.

Meanwhile, there were just 240 rentals on Rightmove (excluding student halls, retirement properties and land).

The picture is similar in Devon - where there were 15,732 Airbnb and Vbro listings compared to 936 Rightmove rentals.

Local leaders, charities and campaigners are continuing to call for change and regulation, as families are facing homelessness in major tourist hotspots.

It is no secret that Cornwall is a beautiful place, and with that comes the contentious subject of second homes. A Cornwall Council heatmap from 2021 illustrates how most of the coastline around Cornwall has second homes in each area.

There were an estimated 13,500 second homes in Cornwall as of 2018. St Minver Lowlands in North Cornwall - which includes areas such as Rock and Daymer Bay - was estimated to have the highest percentage of second and holiday homes in Cornwall at 42%.

Credit: Cornwall Council

Despite Covid lockdown and restrictions, Visit Cornwall says it welcomed 3.2 million visitors in 2020, and 4.3 million in 2021.

Last month Airbnb announced a Cornwall Healthy Tourism Commitment to support a sustainable tourism recovery, focusing on ‘supporting clear rules, spreading tourism and its benefits, and tackling noise, nuisance and anti-social behaviour’.

A spokesperson for Airbnb said: “We take housing concerns seriously, and welcome the introduction of clear and modern rules that unlock the benefits of hosting for everyday families and clamp down on speculators, while giving local authorities the information and tools they need to regulate home sharing effectively.

"Four in five UK hosts share only one listing and the majority do so for just two nights a month on average to boost their income. Around a third say the additional earnings help them afford the rising cost of living.”

Housing charity Harbour Housing is working to try to alleviate the very real situation facing more and more people in Devon and Cornwall.

It found that demand for different services has increased significantly since 2020.

Rock, Cornwall Credit: ITV News

A spokesperson said: "At the moment in Cornwall, there is a huge disparity between the number of short-term ‘Airbnb’ style properties available for visitors to Cornwall and the number of longer-term residential lettings available to people living here.

"It’s a phenomenon that while was beginning to become more notable prior to the coronavirus pandemic, has accelerated and become increasingly exacerbated in the past 18 months to the point where if you’re seeking somewhere to live in Cornwall, you’re facing a perfect storm of a demand level far outstripping supply with increased rental prices as a result.

"In some towns across Cornwall it’s almost impossible to find somewhere to rent. It is worth noting that particularly during the period where stamp duty was removed for certain housing purchases, there was a notable increase in the number of rental properties becoming sold to purchasers, a number of which were from outside Cornwall, further reducing the supply of housing available to people living here.

"While you would never seek to demonise any individual who wishes to be as fortunate as we are to live in a terrific part of the UK, the simple reality is that the housing supply available in Cornwall, one poorest parts of the country, is dwindling significantly.

"To us, it does not seem right or fair that where there are thousands of properties available for short-term rentals at a price which is as much per week as a residential letting is a month, there are sometimes less than a hundred properties available to rent and call home and it is a phenomenon which is disproportionately affecting popular areas such as Cornwall.

"In short, Cornwall is in the grip of a severe housing crisis which, without serious, credible action will only get worse. While we believe Cornwall Council is doing an excellent job trying to alleviate this with the resources it has, it is our belief that this situation will only be improved with urgent focus, direct investment, creativity, and involvement from central Government."

While there is no immediate resolution, work towards it is happening. The Government says it is reviewing the effect of short-term holiday lets in the hope of improving the holiday letting market for those living in popular tourism destinations like Devon and Cornwall.

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