COVID-19 – WE GOT IT WRONG – AIRBNB
Our Media Release on Friday reposted information “from one of Sydney’s major hospitals on the COVID-19 Coronavirus to Staff”. Well it wasn’t. It was a scam message. Proof of our error in distributing this misinformation is confirmed in this short BBC podcast. Sincere thanks the individual who alerted us. Do please use the other link we provided:
Australian Government Department of Health – Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert
As most would now know, last Thursday 2,647 passengers on board the Ruby Princess, some displaying flu-like symptoms, disembarked at Sydney’s Circular Quay. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard subsequently urged all 2,647 passengers plus the 1,148 crew members to self-isolate immediately. As reported by the SMH: “Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said all passengers had been sent emails and text messages alerting them to the situation, directing them to self-isolate. Some passengers have not responded.”
Around the corner from where the Ruby Princess docked is a self-serve Airbnb key-box, and attached to trees, bike racks and other council infrastructure are an untold number of similar lock boxes that provide Airbnb clients with instant access to residential buildings. City of Sydney Council’s CEO has refused requests to remove these lock boxes from council infrastructure.
As recently as 08 March 2020, Council’s CEO wrote that residents who had sought enforcement of residential zoning and Land and Environment Court Orders should seek independent legal advice and, if they felt the City’s decision to take no action against Airbnb-type rentals was “unfair”, they could “contact the NSW Ombudsman’s office by telephone or complete an online complaint form”.
One legal opinion from 2018 relies on a NSW Land and Environment Court judgment: a) Individual residents do not have any statutory authority or legal standing to prove breaches in residential zoning - Councils do. b) Such a breach of zoning was noted by the NSW Land and Environment Court, which provides a precedent ruling. c) The ruling also judged that a stance such as that taken by the City of Sydney Council “amounts to an effective abrogation by the council of its fundamental duties and responsibilities…(and)…the council, by its inaction, has failed to fulfil its core functions and has failed its constituents”.
As far back as August 2015, at the invitation of residents, City of Sydney contractors undertook an inspection of one residential block, noting that the ventilation and recirculation system in the common areas were not functioning. In December that year Council was made aware of other issues relating to hygiene, health and safety. One member of building management acknowledged there were problems with the ventilation and recirculation system – critical under the current circumstances. This issue has not been rectified. Multiple applications to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to place the building under a compulsory strata manager have been dismissed.
As at 15 February 2020, in the City of Sydney Council area alone there were 10,675 dwellings listed via Airbnb.
Two days ago we provided a link to Jimmy Thomson’s Flat-Chat column: “Coming to an Airbnb near you – self-isolating overseas travellers.“ In yesterday’s Financial Review Mr Thomson wrote: “Apartment residents across Australia are angry that their buildings could be turned into high-risk viral hot-spots, as Airbnb hosts offer self-isolation packages to returned overseas travellers.” Deputy chair of the Owners Corporation Network, the peak body for Australian apartment residents, in an email to the Minister for Better Regulation’s office wrote: “This is a very high-risk development.” Still, The Age’s education page editor is promoting management firm MadeComfy with 600-plus (Airbnb) properties – we found 185 listings – as a business “keen to lend a clean hand in coronavirus crisis”.
Truly haunted are those residents aware that the air ventilation and recycling system in their building in nonoperational. Add to this a management team led by one former State MP who has yet to acknowledge or implement any COVID-19 safeguards...and visions of the Ruby Princess disgorging its passengers within shouting distance of their front door are distressing to say the least.