AIRBNB – THE SILENCE IS DEAFENING
After another one (Atlanta – no deaths this time), nay two (Dallas) Airbnb shootings – bringing the total since May in the US/Canada to 41 shootings causing death or serious injury - Airbnb’s Australian representatives have fallen silent. The Twitter accounts of Brent Thomas, Julian Crowley, and Derek Nolan show no activity since the 31 October shooting in California in which five clients were killed. Airbnb newcomer, Derek Nolan has ‘protected’ his Twitter account in the last couple of days. We, like many others, have been blocked from accessing Airbnb Staffers’ Twitter/Facebook feeds. (Trusting though that the links provided will be accessible to many readers.)
Airbnb is instead using its corporate management connections to trigger press articles and speak on behalf of the Company’s activities, with the Domain’s ‘Advice Editor’ yesterday providing tips on ‘How to get your home ready to rent on Airbnb before the peak summer season hits’. Listed were the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane suburbs most penetrated, in terms of housing lost to Airbnb.
Also yesterday, Lismore’s Echo reported that Airbnb landlords were ‘opening up their doors to those left homeless’ by the current NSW bushfire situation. Ferocious fires are also affecting California and last week the San Francisco Chronicle published a Memo to tech companies: The Kincade Fire is not your marketing opportunity. “When…Airbnb look(s) at disaster, they see an opportunity to boost engagement.”
At a large City of Sydney apartment event last week most questions were about the impact of defects on the ‘resilience and sustainability’ of Strata communities. At the end of the presentation one panellist noted that the short-term letting and conversion of residential apartment buildings into quasi hotels was “destroying any prospect of resilience and sustainability”. The audience of many hundreds burst into spontaneous applause. Lord Mayor Clover Moore and other Councillors were present and the looks on their faces were telling, as they heard loud and clear from their constituents. In terms of Airbnb, Sydney now ranks amongst those cities with the greatest loss of housing. One attendee at the Council event stated afterwards:
“The City of Sydney backed the wrong horse, Airbnb; Council sitting on their hands while their constituents got done over.”
A post four days ago on Byron Bay’s social media ‘Community Notice Board’ on their chronic short-term rental situation has reached just under 5,400 residents. One Byron local has used recent data from Inside Airbnb and, checking online for population numbers, has estimated that with approximately 2,000 Airbnb in Byron Bay town and a permanent population of 9,000, and comparing Byron’s figures to 20 other highly affected Airbnb tourist hotspots, Byron has the highest density per resident of Airbnb rentals in the world:
“22% of housing stock is being used for holiday letting. For every 4.5 permanent residents in Byron Bay there is an Airbnb. No wonder the community feels gutted.”
The New York Times reports that there are currently 177,000 people on the waiting list for public housing. And, yes, Airbnb is aiding and abetting the subletting of public housing properties.
In Vancouver, ‘SuperHost’ Chantelle is super annoyed with Airbnb. Airbnb pressured her to sign petitions, write emails, and drop her rates. If she didn’t they would anti-SEO her listing. This is reportedly what happens behind Airbnb's curtain. A first-time speaker and very nervous, ‘Chantelle’ ventured into the daylight to front Vancouver’s City Council and report Airbnb’s activities.
It is two months today since submissions closed to NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s (DPIE) regulation framework changes proposed for short-term rentals. Airbnb and ASTRA (Australian Short Term Rental Accommodation) astro-turfed their landlords with a ‘request’ to return a pre-written template supporting their commercial activities. Silence to date also from the DPIE and the links provided back in August by the Department have been deactivated.
Following criticism, Airbnb says it will now pay the funeral expenses of the five latest victims shot and killed in Orinda, a very affluent part of the San Francisco Bay area. Airbnb will also cover counselling expenses for the family members. We know of four recent deaths at Australian Airbnb listings – three murders plus a four-year-old-boy crushed. Has Airbnb paid any compensation here?