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On this day last year the NSW Parliament debated changes to legislation, which would permit across the State short-term (as short as an hour) tourist/visitor rentals of residential dwellings. Section 137A was slipped into the NSW Strata Schemes Management Act on 18 August 2018. The legal jargon is florid; brief, Section 137A states a by-law in Strata could prevent holiday rentals if 75% of owners agree to implement the by-law and only if the apartment/s (residential lot/s) in question is/are not the principal place of the residence of the person who is giving another person the right to occupy.

Today, 14 August 2019, NSW Residents who have show ‘interest’ in this matter received an email from NSW Department of Customer Service. The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and the Department of Customer Service seeks feedback before 11 September – ominous date – on draft instruments and regulations that will overturn the current state-wide planning framework, plus provide an Industry Code of Conduct for short-term-rental accommodation (STRA).

In order to facilitate the commercial use of housing, much in the way of planning instruments and legislation needs major restructuring. If implemented, this will gift Destination NSW, other State Government Departments, Airbnb, Expedia/Stayz, Wotif, Booking, VRBO, Flipkey, HomeAway, TripAdvisor – indeed all Online Travel Agencies - access to homes. Housing will operate without restriction as hotels/serviced apartments. This process has had Residents submitting “opinions and concerns” since September 2015, with Government failing to address the issues repeatedly put to them. Residents are invited to make further submissions, without having been involved in discussions. These are major changes. Documents can be lodged either online or in writing to the Director, Housing and Infrastructure Policy, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, GPO Box 39, Sydney NSW 2000 (not 2001?).

What the NSW Government intends altering are the following – spot and count the changes if you can:

The NSW Government is not in a position to override National Construction Codes. Nor can our State MPs amend the Federal Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010. Putting aside those obvious hurdles, one should first review the 24-page Discussion Paper, before tackling the other draft documents.

No mentioned is made of the failed NSW Holiday Rental Code of Conduct, in force and supported by Ministers and Local Government NSW since 2007. Now “Industry is best place to administer a proposed STRA property register”. No mention of other Cities’ battles to see STRA operators act legally. No mention of what The Times of London refers to as “a race to the bottom”, when residents are replaced by holiday rentals. No talk of the rate increases levied by Councils, such as the City of Sydney, on accredited B&B operators, while Airbnb-type rentals avoid commercial rates, taxes and levies.

NSW Fair Trading has also let it be known to some today that it is reviewing the NSW Boarding Houses Act 2012. Submissions need to be lodged by 08 October. The 39-page Discussion Paper – Statutory Review of the Boarding Houses Act 2012 - contains 39 questions intended to facilitate discussion (only) and do not indicate government policy.

The Australian’s Associated Editor Brad Norington reports that for two years, an Airbnb Agent, Jeffrey Feng from 'And Chill' was also employed by Qantas in Sydney to work on the airline’s loyalty program that runs the frequent flyer points scheme. “With Qantas awarding frequent-flyer points to members who use Airbnb, and Mr Feng working in the Qantas department that oversees the points scheme, it is possible his employer was unaware of his deep involvement…” “And Chill was put in the hands of an administrator in late June ‘with no tangible assets’ and owing at least $3.6 million in rental payments.” The Australian reports that the issue has been referred to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC).

We wrote to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce about an employee listed on LinkedIn as Qantas’ ‘Legal Counsel’. It was reported to us that the Qantas staffer’s York Street apartment was listed on Airbnb in clear contravention of the City of Sydney’s Residential Development Consent. This coincided with Qantas’ corporate link up with Airbnb. Alan Joyce failed to acknowledge our correspondence at that time. Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) denounced the Qantas-Airbnb partnership, saying it was a “slap in the face” for Qantas’ traditional hotel partners. Jetstar subsequently followed Qantas in a deal with Airbnb, for an undisclosed amount.

So dear friends, say good-bye to living in a Residential Community. The NSW Government plans to change the status of residential housing and suburbs as we know it. Airbnb and others will receive exactly what they want: full and open access to NSW homes. And our acting Premier John Barilaro and State Opposition Leader Jodi McKay will see their Airbnb profits given the ‘green light’.

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