AIRBNB – MAKING THE MOST OUT OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
Three years ago NSW Ministers Anthony Roberts and Matthew Kean wrote that in 2014 NSW/ACT had lost 216,000 homes to short-term holiday rentals. Given current events, one imagines the majority of these properties now sit vacant. The need to provide shelter plus the need for Residents to self-isolate has never been more critical. What measures could be enforced to see all vulnerable NSW residents housed? In the US, groups of homeless mothers are taking over vacant homes in a desperate attempt to safeguard their children. And house sitters – those who rely on minding homes for absent travellers – are finding their engagements cancelled at the last minute. Enter Airbnb hosts in Australia: they are considering offering house sitters short-term rentals for a fee – which is not permitted – given that many an individual may now be in real need of housing. And social media is ablaze with Airbnb platform users claiming they have been *scammed*: according to one US "host" with 100,000 subscribers, Airbnb refunds "guests" booking charges, while pocketing up to 30 percent of booking fees and taxes:
"Airbnb has leveraged a global panic to pull off the biggest financial scam one could imagine from a $30 billion dollar Tech Start-up. This is unethical and it hurts everybody. Airbnb is NOT actually giving guests 100% refunds due to extenuating circumstances. They are only refunding 100% of what a host would collect. They are otherwise keeping 100% of their fee PLUS hotel and occupancy taxes that no longer need to be collected and are holding all of that money as a "travel coupon" for a future stay. They are keeping tax dollars that they should be paying to the cities/states/countries..."
Those reportedly being thumped the hardest are Airbnb’s ‘hosts’ and, oh boy! These Airbnb landlords – hundreds and hundreds of them - are white hot with fury.
On 10 May 2015 Airbnb had claimed 9,700 homes in the Greater Sydney Area. So concerned were Parliamentarians, the NSW State Government launched an inquiry into the adequacy of legislation covering short-term tourist/visitor rentals. Committee Member Jamie Parker MP remarked on Airbnb’s “rapid growth”; it was Airbnb’s expansion that had triggered the need for the Inquiry. Exactly four years later, the transcript of dialogue between Airbnb’s Mike Orgill, now General Manager, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong & Taiwan at Airbnb, and the NSW Parliamentarians makes for interesting reading. The concern of Parliament over Airbnb’s 9,700 homes in Sydney now seems laughable, given that as of 15 February 2020, that figure had jumped to 40,433. And MPs want to ‘green-light’ this activity Statewide.
This morning the Western Australia Police Force allege that they located $10,000 cash concealed in a vehicle parked in a garage. A subsequent executed search warrant at a “short-stay accommodation property which was being rented by the 28-year-old man is alleged to have contained $3.5 million in cash”. Residents write that they are “lost for words at times to describe the consequences of crime that Airbnb and Stayz-type rentals bring into residential areas that were previously trouble free”.
Let’s all support our accredited B&B, Guesthouse, Motel, and Hotel operators and ensure that residential housing houses our Residents.