Short term lets in Edinburgh

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The increasing number of short term lets in Edinburgh has been a point of debate for years, with questions around regulation and the behaviour of guests being key issues. While many online platforms for short term lets exist, perhaps the most well known is Airbnb. Airbnb publishes a lot of useful data on their website. This blog takes a look at the data on Airbnbs in Edinburgh. Issues around regulation of short term lets have been explored in another SPICe blog: Short term lets: time for regulation?

How many Airbnbs have been registered?

SPICe_2019_Housing_Airbnb_Number of airbnbs

Airbnb publish data on registrations for cities across the world, including Edinburgh. The first Airbnb registrations in Edinburgh were in 2009. In 2009, there were eight AirBnBs registered in Edinburgh. Since then the number has grown to over 12,000. However, not all registrations are necessarily active. Also, properties can have more than one registration – for example they might have two or three separate rooms to let.

But how does Edinburgh compare with other European cities? When looking at the total number of registrations, Edinburgh has approximately 240 for every 10,000 people living in the city. This is around the same as in Amsterdam, more than three times more than Dublin, which has around 70 per 10,000 residents but significantly less than Copenhagen, which has approximately 340 registrations per 10,000 residents.

SPICe_2019_Housing_Airbnb_Airbnb per head

Has Edinburgh hit “peak AirBnB”?

The growth in the number of new Airbnb registrations in Edinburgh has slowed over the past couple of years. The peak years for growth were clearly 2015 and 2016 when there were over 2,500 new registrations each year. In 2018, new registrations were just under 1,500. Could this indicate that the Airbnb market in Edinburgh is becoming saturated?

SPICe_2019_Housing_Airbnb_Airbnb growth per year

The decline in new registrations is largely in line with other cities around Europe when looking at proportional change. The proportional growth in new Airbnb registrations in Edinburgh is similar to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dublin, Lisbon and London, having fallen from 88% growth between 2013 and 2014 to 14% between 2017 and 2018.

However, it is difficult to say what has caused this fall.  While it could be over saturation, it could also be due to people starting to use other short term let platforms.

SPICe_2019_Housing_Airbnb_Comparision of growth

Where have Airbnbs been registered?

The data published by Airbnb provides information on the location of registrations. The Edinburgh data has been mapped by Inside Airbnb showing the location of each individual registration. It is interesting to map this to administrative areas to see how registrations sit within a wider context, i.e. compared to other sources of data.

We can map Airbnb data to Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) data zones. For those unfamiliar with the SIMD, the Scottish Government produces the Index to help policy-makers identify areas of poverty and inequality across Scotland. It looks at 38 different indicators to measure the different sides of deprivation. Each data zone across Scotland is ranked from 1 (most deprived) to 6,976 (least deprived).

There are 597 data zones in the City of Edinburgh local authority area, and 14% of Edinburgh’s data zones are in the 20% most deprived Scottish areas. Edinburgh is the 15th out of Scotland’s 32 local authorities in terms of proportional share of most deprived areas. Glasgow has the highest share with 48% of the city’s data zones in the bottom 20%.

SPICe_2019_Housing_Airbnb_SIMD by LA

The animated chart below shows the growth in Airbnb registrations in Edinburgh by data zone. Unsurprisingly, this confirms that most of the registrations have been in and around the centre of the city, containing few of the city’s most deprived data zones.

SPICe_2019_Housing_Airbnb_by_SIMD 09 to18

What does this mean?

So far, so predictable. However, looking below the headline SIMD ranking we can see how the Airbnb data links with the individual SIMD domains. This provides a more interesting insight. The seven different domains combined to create the SIMD are: Income, Employment, Health, Education, Access, Crime and Housing. The chart below shows how many registrations there are in each data zone ranked from most to least deprived, the wider the chart the more registrations, for the Access, Crime and Housing domains.

SPICe_2019_Housing_Airbnb_SIMD Domains

What this shows is that most Airbnb registrations in Edinburgh are in areas with excellent access to services – close to shops, GP surgeries, schools, etc. However, these are also areas that experience relatively higher rates of crime and lower quality housing. This does not mean that Airbnbs are necessarily in poor quality housing, it is the areas where they tend to be found have relatively lower quality housing.

Is there a problem?

We know that high numbers of short-term lets can add pressure to housing supply in areas where there is existing high demand for housing. This is explored in a recent Edinburgh City Council action plan which attempts to assess the impact of short-term lets within the city. The report concludes that a concentration of short-term lets can erode the sense of community in certain neighbourhoods and can also lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour and undue nuisance.

It is important to stress that the Council is mostly concerned about lets where a property is offered for rent for significant periods of the year, such that it is no longer used as a primary place of residence. With the Council calling for the Scottish Government to help limit or at least regulate in this area, it is clear that the issue of short terms, including Airbnbs, in Edinburgh, and around Scotland, will continue to be debated for some time.

Andrew Aiton, Data Visualisation Manager and Greig Liddell, Senior Researcher

A technical note describing the data sources and methodology for this analysis is available on request from SPICe.  Please email  for more information.