UNIONS AND GOVERNMENT CONNECTIONS WITH SHORT-TERM RENTAL AGENTS
The Tasmanian Tenants Union, and the University of Tasmania, know too well the contribution Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms are having in regards to a crisis in housing. Strong growth in Tasmanian tourism has resulted in the sector expanding by 162% in the two years to June 2018, with almost 5,000 properties now listed on Airbnb alone.
The UK Timesis reporting that one in ten central Edinburgh homes is listed on the Airbnb platform, with many other platforms also eating into housing. “Growing numbers of families and young professionals are losing their homes as landlords exploit the short-term letting market.” In another article The Times writes, “the reality is that so many hosts have multiple listings, and Airbnb can no longer claim exclusive inventory because the professional managers are listing on HomeAway(Stayz) or Booking.com, as well”. In an article titled “Investigation: how Airbnb has been hijacked by agencies making a huge profit” the Times revealed a number of cases where individuals were listed as hosts, but were indeed fronts for corporations. The chief executive of the Accommodation Association of Australia, Dean Long, says The Times article just reinforces what the industry has known for some time. “The industry has long reinforced that unhosted, whole properties dominate on the site. Currently Inside Airbnb data shows that 62.5 percent of properties listed in Sydney and Melbourne are entire homes and apartments with high availability.”
The San Francisco Tenants Union was able to expose an upwards of US$8 million spend by Airbnb to defeat a ballot initiative that would limit how many days landlords can temporarily rent their properties. And a small US$100k donation from Airbnb saw some San Francisco merchants advocating for Airbnb. Airbnb has just dropped $50k into an historic QLD outback pub plus several other Australian Hotels in an attempt to find favour with the Australian Hotels Association, ignoring Airbnb being “corporate raiders that profit by aiding and abetting illegal tourist rentals, driving up housing costs, unlawful evictions, gutting residential communities, etc. etc”. But otherwise, the give-aways are “OK”.
Despite Airbnb Australia Sam McDonagh’s claim to The Australian newspaper (02/06/16) that we are Airbnb’s “most penetrated market in the world”, a controversial NSW Tenants Union report championed Airbnb’s mantra, ‘Belong Anywhere’. The Union’s report concluded: “(we) acknowledged the impact the growth in short-term letting has had on communities in other parts of the world, but from our investigation the same does not appear to be true here”.
A NSW Parliamentary reportstates that in 2014, NSW/ACT had lost an estimated 216,000 homesto the short-term rental Industry. Parliamentary Inquiry Members recommended that the short-term rental of all NSW residential dwellings should now be deemed ‘exempt/complying’ development – a claimed ‘win win’ for Airbnb. Was MPs’ failure to seek legal advice on this retrospective downgrading of Residents’ proprietary rights accidental? State Labor Leader Jodi McKay, former State Labor Leader/Premier Bob Carr and former National Secretary of the TWU/now Federal Labor Senator Tony Sheldon are key Airbnb players. As a matter of urgency, Politicians, Government Departments and numerous NSW Unions’ links with Airbnb, Stayz, Booking.com, DestinationNSW and other agents offering cabins, residential dwellings etc as holiday rentals need to be addressed. Questions remain over possible ‘conflict of interest’ in relation to the recommendations of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the adequacy of legislation covering holiday rentals.
NSW Residents write: “It feels as if a river of fetid syrup is engulfing all of us and we are powerless to stop it”, and “the more one observes operations of Government the clearer it becomes how intertwined business and politics is, to the exclusion of the people. It has probably always been so, but it seems a lot worse since the rise of neoliberal ideology. It was a brilliant concept for the business sector. It’s tragic!”