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Antony Antoniou – Luxury Property Expert

Banning Airbnbs: Lessons from Portugal for Solving the UK’s Housing Crisis

Banning Airbnbs: Lessons from Portugal for Solving the UK’s Housing Crisis


In the midst of a housing crisis, it’s refreshing to see a government willing to take bold steps towards a solution, even if it means making unpopular decisions. However, unfortunately, this government isn’t in the UK but in Portugal. The Portuguese government has recently implemented measures to address their housing challenges, such as banning new Airbnb permits in many cities and proposing that owners of vacant homes lease their properties to the government for five years. While these actions face legal challenges, they have sparked a vital conversation about housing as a fundamental right. It’s high time the UK engaged in a similar dialogue.

Housing Crisis in Portugal and the UK:

Like the UK, Portugal is grappling with a housing crisis. Despite being one of the poorest countries in the EU, rents in Lisbon, the capital, rose by an alarming 37% in 2022. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Portuguese government unveiled a comprehensive housing plan that includes measures to curb Airbnb and ensure the utilization of vacant properties. Although legal obstacles remain, the proposals have initiated a crucial discussion about the essence of housing as a basic human right.

In the UK, the situation is not vastly different. The average house price in England now exceeds £315,000, representing a year-on-year increase of over 10%, while average wages have risen by only 6%. Rental prices have also skyrocketed, with London experiencing an uptick of more than 15%. These escalating costs have left many unable to afford suitable housing.

Insufficient Government Action in the UK:

Regrettably, the UK government’s response to the housing crisis has been underwhelming. The Renters Reform Bill, currently progressing through parliament, primarily offers limited protection to sitting tenants, safeguarding them from sudden evictions without cause. While this provision is commendable, it falls short of addressing the core issues.

Meanwhile, England alone had 257,331 homes that stood empty for at least six months as of November last year, marking a decade-high increase of 20,000 properties. Despite over a million households being on the social housing waiting list, there is no comprehensive strategy in place to tackle this problem. Even measures, like the Levelling Up Bill, which proposes higher council tax for empty properties, lack the necessary strength to make a meaningful impact. The government’s efforts have focused more on converting office spaces into housing, yielding questionable results, rather than transforming empty homes into habitable residences.

Airbnb’s Impact on Local Communities:

Similar to Portugal, attractive tourist destinations in the UK, particularly coastal areas like Devon, Cornwall, and Wales, have been severely affected by the proliferation of Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms. This phenomenon has hollowed out these communities, undermining their character and affordability.

In Wales, for example, landlords can earn as much money from short-term lets in just ten weeks as they would make in a whole year charging rent supported by housing benefit claims for local families. Understandably, this incentivizes landlords to prioritize short-term rentals over providing long-term housing to local residents. Efforts are underway to counter this Airbnb effect, including allowing councils to impose a 300% council tax on empty and second homes. However, these measures may not go far enough to address the complex nature of the problem.


While Portugal sets an example with its proactive approach to the housing crisis, the UK lags behind, leaving its communities worse off. By banning new Airbnb permits, promoting the utilization of vacant homes, and redefining housing as a basic human right, the Portuguese government has sparked a crucial conversation. The UK government must follow suit and prioritize housing as a fundamental need, taking bolder actions to solve the housing crisis and ensure that all citizens have access to affordable and secure homes. It’s time for the UK to learn from Portugal and take decisive steps towards resolving its own housing challenges.


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