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In the days before Christmas 2019, a sub-group of residential apartment owners – 30 of 67 - lodged an application with Brisbane Council for a “Material Change of Use for Short-Term Accommodation”. After three years of unlawful short-term rentals, residents have seen almost half the apartments in their Dock Street South Brisbane building converted from long-term residential to short-tour tourist/visitor rentals. Councillors have reportedly known about this erosion of housing stock from ‘day one’. Residents write that Council has on two occasions confirmed that short-term rentals are not a permissible use, but has done nothing to enforce its own regulations and the conditions under which resident owners purchased homes in the building. Having had their preferred insurance company withdraw cover because of their unlawful activity, the short-term rental landlords have subsequently applied to Council for this change of use.

Google search ‘River Plaza Apartments’ – 14 pages of listings on every type of online booking platform appear.

Council is now assessing the application and as it is code assessable, resident owners advise that once a decision is made, there can be no opposition submissions or appeal. As this is an election year for Brisbane Council resident owners have tried to lobby the Mayor Adrian Schrinner to intervene as, with the stroke of a pen, planning assessor Rachel Green can “condemn the building to having no regulatory method of dealing with short-term occupants. The only method of control is to call police, who do not want to be dealing with a drunken bucks party or occupants parking in the wrong car space”.

Since September residents report having seen several incidents in the building that necessitated police intervention. The first incident was a ticketed Internet ‘house party’ where vanloads of "guests" arrived. On another occasion a drunken party saw windows smashed and "guests " climbing between balconies on upper levels of the building. And the latest incident – 04 February 2020 - was a stabbing. None of the events made the news; residents write that Police have lodged reports.

All the 30 short-term rentals are part of a Letting Pool reportedly run for off-site investors by the Building Manager. As the activity is spread over all levels, it is not possible to separate the unlawful rentals and their impact from long-term occupants. Residents write that they have been left with uncontrollable Checkerboard Letting that has cost them their sense of safety, increased their levies for up grades including attempts to increase security, over-crowding in apartments, and an unknown number of unidentified strangers who have no respect for owners’ assets and their need for peaceful amenity. These clients too are given access to all areas of common property.

Brisbane City Council’s website states that it is “dedicated to a better Brisbane”, yet many of the documents submitted to Council appear to have inactive links; in other words, transparency is questionable. BCity Pty Ltd/River Plaza Management “on behalf of Body Corporate for River Plaza Community Titles Scheme 27441” is the “Primary Applicant”. BCity Pty Ltd’s website –River Plaza – gives absolutely no indication that the building is Residential, and home for the occupants of 37 other apartments.

In their submission for the “Material Change of Use”, the consultants paid to lobby Council have written in their Conclusion & Statement of Reasons that the “key conclusions have been determined as follows”:

  • The building is existing and no material changes are proposed;

  • The proposal is limited for formalizing the required flexibility to support how the units are being occupied;

  • Short-term accommodation uses on the site are consistent with the intent of State planning instruments, the purpose, overall outcomes and performance outcomes of High-Density Residential Zoning and other supporting (un-identified) Codes; and

  • Given the existing nature of the building, short-term accommodation is an appropriate outcome for the site.

Unlawful, non-compliant “short-term accommodation is an appropriate outcome for the site”? Not if one is a resident owner in the building or the owner of a residential lot used for the housing of tenants.

Resident owners are distressed about the intended “Material Change of Use“ to their homes and building and have asked if opponents would write to Brisbane Council - Application Details for A005365575 - to share their concerns about: “The loss of inner-city residential housing by the unlawful short-term rental epidemic that is also impacting on lawful accommodation providers and changing the fabric of a once great liveable city.”

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