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After some four years of Submissions to the NSW Parliament, residents and corporations have until this Wednesday to respond to a Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) invitation to ‘Have Your Say’ on the use of one’s home (and surrounding dwellings) as short-term holiday rentals. Proposed alterations to our State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP] would see Airbnb-type rentals, at the swipe of the Planning Minister’s pen, given the ‘green light’ in every home and residential apartment. “The new policy followed a Parliamentary Inquiry into the adequacy of the regulation of short-term holiday letting in New South Wales in 2015-16 and an Options Paper in 2017.” Of particular note: the Parliamentary Inquiry established no ‘inadequacy’ in our current regulations; legislation is simply not being enforced. Airbnb, Expedia/Stayz and HRIA/ASTRA (Australian Short-Term Rental Association Australia) have all emailed their platform users – the DPIE should expect another grand example of ‘astroturfing’.

One understands that it is at the Minister’s discretion, not Parliament, to amend the State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP]. Planning Minister Rob Stokes has a highly respected track record – the DPIE recognises their Minister’s credentials: “has read sustainable urban development at the University of Oxford and has completed a PhD in law under a Commonwealth Scholarship.” We will await the Minister’s response to what is described as a “radical change” – more in this excellent podcast.

Sydney residents may have noticed that after a yearlong pause, construction at the Opera Residences has commenced. The property officially takes the crown as Australia’s most expensive real estate, achieving a value of $96,000 per square meter and easily besting the priciest properties in Point Piper and the CBD, which max out at $50,000 per square meter”.

On 18 July 2019, the City of Sydney signed off on ‘Modification Approval’ for the Opera Residences. Of specific note is “(20) Restrictions on Permanent Residential Development – Levels 10 to 19…must be used as permanent residential accommodation only and not for the purposes of a hotel, motel, serviced apartment…or the like…” And, “if a unit contains tenants, it must be subject to a residential tenancy agreement for a term of at least three months…no person can advertise or organise the use of residential apartments…for short term accommodation or share accommodation”. In surrounding residential buildings, with extant Development Approvals where “Illegal” Airbnb use is spreading like a contagion, the City of Sydney Council advises: “The use of these units for short term residential/tourist style accommodation has been considered in terms of its impact on the amenity of the building and the safety of its occupants…there is no significant detrimental effect on the environment and it does not constitute a risk to public health and safety.” Read: zero enforcement action.

Just wondering if $96,000 per square meter will guarantee those in the Opera Residences protection from that which the NSW Land and Environment Court judges to be “fundamentally incompatible” with their home lives, and whether Council will act in their interests?

Meanwhile, The Guardian is reporting on How Airbnb Took Over the World”. And Airbnb has reportedly named the Outer Hebrides in ‘places where we screwed up the housing market for young people’ list: This rugged island chain is filled with natural splendour and thanks to us, there will be very few locals to spoil your view as they can’t afford to live here anymore.”

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