CONTEMPT OF PARLIAMENT…AND SO?
Last Wednesday the Parliament of Western Australia heard testimony by Airbnb’s Brent Thomas and Sam McDonagh, plus Expedia’s Eacham Curry speaking for Stayz/HomeAway. Parliamentary Committee Chair Jessica Shaw MLA advised:
“It’s important that you understand that any deliberate misleading of this Committee may be regarded as a ‘Contempt of Parliament’.”
As to the veracity of the contents of Eacham Curry’s statements, one looks to the Facebook comments of the Stayz Owners United group – see photo.
A “category that has been entirely overlooked” in Airbnb’s written Submission to the WA Hearing Committee: “properties or indeed entire apartment complexes that are bought (zoned) that are considered to be Residential but are bought purely for the utilisation on Airbnb. They’re not homes at all. They are properties that are rented out as a proxy as you like for traditional hotel based accommodation…and then the other category – entire homes…rented out as venues.” Jessica Shaw MLA went on to say: “There is no way that either of those categories of properties that I’ve just mentioned fall into the focus of your submission or the bifurcation of the approach that you’ve encouraged this Committee to take.”
Airbnb’s reply: “The overwhelming majority of people that list on Airbnb are sharing the home that they live in…(Entire home listings) are a very small percentage of our platform”. False, according to Inside Airbnb’s Submission:
“Entire home listings dominate the platform in W.A., making up 70% of all Airbnb listings and 92% of revenue. Airbnb continues to grow, almost exclusively in Entire home type listings. Most Entire home Airbnb listings are not being rented “occasionally” (and) almost half (46%) of Entire home Airbnb listings are part of a property portfolio. In some WA LGA’s, Airbnb Entire home listings make up almost 10% of Housing Stock and commercial Entire home Listings make up more than 40% of Rental Stock.”
When asked to give exact figures on Entire home type listings, Brent Thomas said that such type of property is a “very small percentage” of the platform: “Yeah, absolutely take that on notice, yeah sure.” The Committee Chairperson’s question was not answered. Multiple times Mr Thomas recommended to the Parliamentary Committee Members to “take with a grain of salt” criticism of Airbnb’s operations, so often that Jessica Shaw MLA finally responded:
“There’s a lot of salt we’re going to be consuming by the sounds of things. Not good for our health!”
So, will a charge of “Contempt of Parliament” be applied to either Expedia or Airbnb?
The Law Society of New South Wales appears concerned about our NSW State Government’s intention of alter Standard Instrument (Local Environmental Plans) and the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes). The planned policy is a way of circumventing Development Approvals to engage in essentially the same activities as serviced apartments and hotels – tourist/visitor accommodation - in residential buildings and zones. No reference is made by the Law Society to the planned circumvention by State Parliament of Federal Legislation.
Airbnb and Expedia: Certainly contempt for Federal Building Codes and Disability Legislation, Planning and Zoning, plus the rights of residents and accredited accommodation providers.
Yesterday morning the leading headline for online subscribers to the Sydney Morning Herald was: “’Illegal hotels at the expense of precious housing’: The truth about Airbnb in Sydney”:
“The home-sharing platform, which declined to comment for this story, does not share its listings data but an Australian, Murray Cox (Inside Airbnb), opened a window into the company’s activity by scraping the website and making it available on Inside Airbnb…The data dispelled the myth of home sharing and highlighted that commercial operators were turning their investment properties into illegal hotels at the expense of precious housing for residents…The top five Sydney Airbnb hosts have more than 100 listings, led by Sabrina with 197 properties...”
Airbnb has altered the structure of its website. It is no longer possible to see how many properties their landlords have listed. At last count, Sabrina Bethunin had 306 homes listed on Airbnb. The SMH article spoke to the situation in Sydney; there was no mention of the equally devastating impacts of Airbnb, Expedia and others in regional centres of NSW.
Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits
Neighbours not Strangers