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Airbnbs and short-term lets used for ‘parties and pop-up brothels’, Cambridge city councillors claim

Airbnbs and short-term lets in Cambridge are being used for parties and ‘pop-up brothels’, councillors have said, as they called for measures to give them greater control.

Their proliferation is affecting the housing market, disturbing the peace neighbours and turning Cambridge into a “museum town”, it was claimed - with even homes the city council had built being let on Airbnb.

The proliferation of short-term lets in Cambridge is causing neighbourhood disruption, councillors say
The proliferation of short-term lets in Cambridge is causing neighbourhood disruption, councillors say

Cllr Karen Young (Lib Dem, Queen Edith’s) proposed a motion at a full council meeting last Thursday (October 19) calling for the government to introduce more regulation.

She said: “I was elected in May and in the short time since then I have come up so often against problems that people are having with neighbours and neighbouring buildings. I have really been surprised.

“There is an enormous amount of stress for residents affecting their quality of life by the existence of short-term letting in the city.

“People are residents for such a short time, they are not invested in being good neighbours and building good relations with those living next door. This means unrestrained behaviour, with parties, noise, and rudeness to neighbours.

“Also there are many comings and goings, disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood, rogue landlords who have no regard to the space and safety requirements – which the council is currently unable to police – leaving tourists in unsuitable accommodation for their visit to the city.

“This also reduces the number of people staying in hotels - businesses which are regulated, employ people in the city and pay taxes.

“Houses are taken out of the long-term housing market, reducing the availability of housing close to where people work, particularly at the lower end of the market, reducing the long-term sustainability of our communities and turning Cambridge into a museum town.”

Cllr Naomi Bennett (Green, Abbey) agreed that Airbnb conversions were a “huge problem”.

She said even newly-built properties the city council had “sweated to build” were being let on Airbnb.

Cllr Bennett warned people were often unable to trace the owner of the property if there was an issue, giving the examples of houses being “let to a stag party or what appears to be a pop-up brothel or worse”.

Proposing an amendment to the motion, Cllr Katie Thornburrow (Lab, Petersfield) said the issue of short-term lets in the city was something councillors had been working on for years, noting the council was the first outside of London successfully to defend an appeal against a planning enforcement of a short-term let in 2019.

Cllr Thornburrow said the amendment mandated for councillors to continue to work on the issue and to ask the area’s MPs to support measures to bring greater control of short-term letting in the city.

Cllr Young was disappointed by the amendment as it removed some of the points she had made, but said it did appear they were all supportive of the “main thrust of the motion”.

The amended motion was unanimously supported by all councillors.

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